The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – External Access for the Fire Service – Part 42

May 20, 2019 1:57 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blogs for Architects and others in the building design business, we have been looking at the subject of firefighting. In part 41 of this series, we discussed where to fit landing valves in rising mains, taking into account travel distance for the firefighters to the place of fire origin. In part 42, we look at what external access to the premises for the Fire Service should be provided.

In England and Wales, various legislatory documents inform on the requirements relating to external access to buildings for the Fire Service. 

The Building Regulations B5(2) states, ‘Reasonable provision shall be made within the site of the building to enable fire appliances to gain access to the building’.

Approved Document B (ADB) goes along similar lines, ‘If there is sufficient means of external access to enable fire appliances to be brought near to the building for effective use’. 

ADB also acknowledges that there are limitations, ‘These access arrangements and facilities are only required in the interests of the health and safety of people in and around the building. The extent to which they are required will depend on the site and size of the building in so far as it affects the health and safety of those people’.

The reasons for external access are also laid out in ADB and relate to the ability to use such appliances as high-reach turntable ladders and hydraulic platforms, as well as the pumping appliance being used to supply water and equipment for firefighting and rescue activities. Of course, in addition, buildings which are fitted with water mains will have connections around the perimeter of the building. The appliance will need to be able to get close to the building so that a hose connection can be made from the appliance to pump water into the water main of the building.

The NFPA Fire Protection Handbook which is a U.S. publication, talks about the ‘ideal exterior accessibility’ as being a building which can be approached from all sides by Fire Department appliances and equipment. It is also noted that in cases where it is not possible to get the fire appliance close to the building, because of obstructions, then the situation renders equipment such as ladders, elevating platforms and water tower apparatus useless, as well as ensuring that additional valuable time and labour is spent in firefighters carrying hose lines and ground ladders to the building.

In part 43 of this series, LWF will continue looking at the regulations and what they have to say about fire appliance access to the exterior of a building. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us. 

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 0800 410 1130.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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