Emergency Access

Emergency Access

A feature, with a stabilized surface, that allows access for emergency vehicles to a particular property.

Chester County's Emergency Management Services provided the following general suggestions on providing emergency access to a property or development:

  1. Provide more than one access point for subdivisions over 24 dwelling units.
  2. Provide the proper turning radius and turnaround areas for emergency vehicles. See also the VEHICLE CHARACTERISTICS design element.
  3. Reduce strings of flag lots to allow drivers the ability to find the correct parcel.
  4. Make driveway grades no steeper than 12 percent.
  5. Ensure proper pavement thickness for emergency access areas, especially at the rear of apartment buildings.
  6. Provide emergency access routes, maintain them and make keys available if gates and locks are used.
  7. Provide adequate distances between buildings and fire lanes for apartments, offices and commercial development.
  8. Provide easy access to fire hydrant hook up locations.

Emergency vehicle response is time-critical and vehicles are directly affected by poorly designed roadways. If roads are designed to facilitate emergency vehicle access, response time may be improved.

The following options as illustrated in the following Emergency Access Points exhibit (or combination of options) are some ways emergency vehicles can be accommodated when a development is unable to provide a second, fully improved access point:

  1. stabilized grass paver and curb cut;
  2. stabilized or paved surface with gate or chain and curb cut; and
  3. undercarriage preventer device and curb cut.

An efficient system that prevents misuse is the use of grass paver which provides a stabilized surface. This allows for grass to grow in the crevices and over the pavers so that they cannot be seen. In most cases they do not require a chain.

A gate or chain requires an emergency vehicle operator to dismount from the vehicle to open a gate or unlock or cut through a chain. They must also have the proper keys if it is locked. Gates are used more infrequently because of their susceptibility to violations and frequency of disrepair.

Undercarriage preventer devices are susceptible to violation by other motorists and may cause damage to the vehicle or pose a safety problem to the crew from the shock of crossing.

Where curbing exists, curb cuts should be provided to allow vehicular crossings without causing damage. Individual options should be evaluated based on specific site characteristics.


Fire Lane

Fire Lane

(aka Perimeter road)

A right-of-way for emergency vehicle access, within which no parking shall be permitted.

Residential, commercial or institutional buildings should be located within a reasonable distance of a dedicated, accessible and improved public street to ensure access to emergency fire vehicles. An emergency fire lane should be provided within the property lines to provide access to all buildings.

Minimum curb radii adequate for all emergency vehicles should be provided throughout the length of the fire lane. Fire lanes should also be designed to be continuous and not terminate in a dead-end.


View a PDF of this Design Element.

View a PDF of the entire Multi-Modal Handbook.