The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – External Access for the Fire Service – Part 43

May 28, 2019 2:00 pm

In LWFs Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others in the building design business, we have been looking at all aspects of firefighting. In part 42, we began to look at what the regulations have to say about external access for Fire Service equipment, vehicles and personnel. In part 43, we continue from that point.


BS 9999 Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings. Code of practice gives a recommendation that every building should have access for firefighting purposes. In addition, roadways should be constructed so that Fire Service appliances can gain access and that all building entry points should be clearly identifiable. It also states ‘the exact choice of facilities depends on the use, size or layout of the building, the nature of its contents and the site upon which it is situated’.


NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code takes a similar but concise view in stating that approved fire department access roads shall be provided in accordance with certain standards and as approved by the authority having jurisdiction.


When considering access for ladders, the approach should be based upon the likelihood of ladders needing to be used for life safety and firefighting purposes, rather than in assuming ladders will need to be used. The longest ladders typically seen on fire service vehicles are 10.5m to 13.5m in length. This is a sufficient length to reach first or second storey windowsills, rather than floors in order to provide access to the building through a window for firefighters, or egress through the window for any persons still inside the building.


The concept of rescue by ladder or hydraulic platform from a modern building should not be relied upon but rather treated with caution, as rescue in these circumstances is difficult and potentially dangerous for the firefighter and the person requiring rescue.


Also worth considering are the dimensions between the building in question and hard standing or access roads upon which the fire appliances stand. Any fire appliance parked in close proximity to a building on fire is at risk of being caught in a partial or total collapse of the building, or flame spread from a window.

The external access provided for the Fire Service should be planned in conjunction with the internal access requirements and fire plan, rather than – for instance – as a percentage of the overall building area or perimeter.


In part 44 of this blog series, LWF will discuss certain circumstances under which no arrangements need to be made for external access for ladders or aerial platform. 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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