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Public comments window open for fire code proposals | Congress for the New Urbanism

Public comments window open for fire code proposals

CNU went 1-for-2 at the International Code Council’s fire code hearings in October 2009, but as Yogi Berra noted, “The game’s isn’t over until it’s over.”

The ICC is taking public comments through Feb. 8, 2010, and we need your support for CNU’s fire code proposals:

  • CNU's proposed language change to Section 503 of the fire code – the passage mandating that designated fire access roads have at least 20 feet of clear space – was disapproved by a 9-4 vote of the fire code committee. It would have granted fire code officials flexibility to approve streets with less than 20 feet clear depending on factors such as turning radii, connectivity, traffic safety, and the presence of sprinkler systems. The current requirement can be a factor contributing to wider streets that signal drivers to travel at faster speeds. We want to reverse this decision.
  • Appendix K, which was approved by a 12-1 vote, offers performance-based guidance to fire code officials on street designs and “… establish[es] requirements consistent with nationally and internationally recognized good practice for achieving a reasonable level of overall life safety, by taking into account and balancing the need to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries and the need to safeguard against the hazards of fire, explosions and other dangerous conditions.” For example, instead of the strict 20-foot-clear requirement, Appendix K recognizes street widths and vertical clearances that permit “passage of the jurisdiction's fire apparatus and, wherever necessary, provides adequate space for deploying the jurisdiction's fire apparatus and for conducting fire and rescue operations.” We want to affirm this decision.

CNU’s proposals acknowledge that solid common ground exists for ongoing efforts to reconcile narrower streets and good emergency access: Street connectivity — specifically well-connected networks of traditional street grids — is essential to good urbanism, shortens emergency response times, and improves overall community life safety. Taken together, these changes would have made the fire code less focused on mandating wide streets, and more flexible in allowing cities to take advantage of the safety and response benefits of connected networks of walkable narrower streets. Even so, acceptance of Appendix K and the committee’s stated desire for more dialogue with CNU are important steps toward that goal.

But constructive dialog shouldn’t include shouting with a bullhorn – which is what the fire code committee unfortunately did by its unanimous approval of “F17” – the proposed fire code amendment stating: “Traffic calming devices are prohibited unless approved by the fire code official.” Read the whole thing here. We want to reverse this decision.

Please download the Dallas Group version of the ICC’s public comment forms (Word or PDF) here. The form asks for the usual info (name and date, address and contact information) and whether you’re asking for approval, approval as modified, or disapproval – and provides a lengthy excerpt from the ICC’s Code Development procedures about the intent of public comments. There is also a copyright release form, which must be faxed or mailed to the ICC’s offices in Country Club Hills, IL.

The Final Action Hearings for all International Fire Code proposals are May 14-23, 2010, in Dallas, Texas.

Photo courtesy of Norman Garrick.

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