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Fire Access Roads & Water Supplies

Fire Access Roads
The Fire Department is required to respond to a multitude of emergencies in various types of buildings and occupancies. These include single-family dwellings, apartment buildings, shopping malls, business complexes, industrial complexes, hospitals, and nursing homes. To provide

effective fire-fighting operations, the Fire Department must be able to reach all structures by way of approved access roadways, streets, or driveways.

Often it seems there is an immutable conflict among property owners, land use planners, and emergency response officials over the width of roads in some neighborhoods. Property owners and developers may want to minimize the impact and cost of drivable surfaces while fire officials are concerned about safe, reasonable access to emergency scenes.

Water Supplies
There is no single 'correct' method for establishing fire flow in the structural fire protection world; the overall objective is to provide enough water effectively at the right place to suppress the heat energy released by the fire and protect exposures. The availability of the water supply and the fire department's pumping capacity to deliver flow may be the limiting factors. Several mathematical formulas exist to determine water supply requirements. Some of these formulas are intended to be applied during building construction, calculated during pre-incident planning exercises, or assessed for insurance underwriting purposes, and others are intended to be quick references for an Incident Commander confronted with an emergency. Fire flow sources may be dynamic (municipal or private water systems, water tenders, elevated tanks) or static (ponds, lakes, reservoirs, underground tanks or seashores).

Code Requirements
The two model fire codes, the International Fire Code and NFPA 1 Uniform Fire Code, address the access road requirement similarly. Both require that a minimum 20 foot-wide road reach within 150 feet of all portions of the exterior wall of the first story of a building, measured in an approved route around the exterior. Wider widths are prescribed under specific circumstances.

The IFC describes fire flow as the rate of a water supply at a pressure of 20 psi that is available for firefighting. The IFC method employs a table that lists the minimum flow based on the construction type and size of the structure. IFC Appendix B also allows fire flow reductions between 50 percent and 75 percent if the structure is protected by automatic sprinklers in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13 or 13R.

The Fire Department needs access and adequate water to extinguish a fire, or the fire likely will consume all combustibles in its path. Allen Engineering can help your design accommodate the access of fire apparatus into and around the building site and provide rapid access to various features such as fire department connections (FDCs), hose valves, elevators and stairs, annunciators, key boxes, etc.

Allen Engineering serves Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Spokane, Olympia as well as all of King, Spokane, Pierce, and Snohomish County


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