Re: emergency vehicle access
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 20:33:07 -0500
("Digest" mode folks - remember to give your post a content-oriented 
title, so it can be archived !)

Just as there is a Universal (or is it Uniform?) Building Code, there is 
also a UFC - a standard Fire Code. Your local fire station will have a 
copy for sure. This specifies the bottom line needs -- truck must be able 
to get within X feet of the farthest corner of a building, trucks can go 
X feet down a street branch and back out, but if the branch is longer 
than that they need to be able to turn around. This needn't be a circle 
(which is good news because it takes a very big circle). Other options 
are things like a "hammerhead T" , sort of a T or Y shaped road end that 
allows 3 point turns -- and the exact angles, lengths etc are spelled 

We were able to avoid putting in a whole block of road, which was only 
needed for fire access to a certain house, by covenanting to require a 
sprinkler system in that house. The sprinkler cost was a lot less than 
the street development would have been.

Sometimes fire departments will allow an emergency route that is visually 
blocked, but with some sort of knock-down barrier that could be 
sacrificed in a fire emergency. 

Here at RoseWind, our site allowed an arrangement where all homes are 
reachable by vehicle, the general effect being a central car-free 
commons, with homes sort of around the edges, with vehicle access  from 
the perimeter. We still had to deal with the fire engine "hammerheads" 
etc.  for turn-arounds. 

Contrary to those who predict the instant demise of community if you can 
drive to your door, we have found it to do no harm, and to be very 
convenient. Hip surgery, older folks, sleepy children, sacks of 
groceries, flats of plants, rain, running late -- it helps to drive right 
close. Cars in the driveway are just another of the clues we have -- like 
lights on--- that tell us who is home, has visitors, etc. Doesn't mean we 
don't walk around the neighborhood, chat with friends, or have nice 
gardens. It may not be your choice, but it is an option which can work. 

I remember on a visit to Nyland noting that the pedestrian path between 
two rows of houses was supposed to also serve as emergency vehicle 
access. While I could imagine an ambulance driving over various 
plantings, it was harder to imagine it driving overthe dozen tricycles, 
wagons, bikes, etc which were all along the path. Consider whether your 
plan not only meets the technical sign-off regulations, but how it might 
really work.

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA
We just had a weekend workshop for the group with Rob Sandelin -- we old 
dogs (almost 10 years now)  still have tricks to learn. Plenty of useful 
observations and practical things to try out to smooth our process and 
build our community. Rob's been at so many cohousing groups, you'd swear 
he'd been listening in on your own group's meetings over the years.  
Recommend him very highly to groups new or old. 

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