Since when are fire trucks incapable of backing up?


As anyone who has worked with fire departments to review the proposed design of new buildings/developments will attest, they hate projects that require a fire truck to back up more than 50-75 feet. Why this is, has never been clearly explained to me, other than veiled references to safety concerns. Granted, there are unfortunate examples of deaths (usually other emergency personnel) being pinned between fire vehicles listed on the internet. Secondly, for lengthy hook and ladder trucks, I completely understand.  

The problem is that planners, architects, and engineers are being expected tolerate altered site plans and building designs that essentially loop the entire facility with impervious hard surfaces so that firefighters won’t have to back up any fire truck. Even when pervious grass surfaces are proposed concerns have been raised because they look too much like a play area

I, as much as the next person appreciate the valor and courage it takes to be a firefighter. But, somehow, that same bravery disappears when if comes to putting a fire truck into reverse. Frankly it has gotten so bad, that one has to wonder why manufacturers even bother with including reverse on the vehicles in the first place. Even today’s fire stations are designed and built as enormous drive-thru’s. Long gone are the days of backing into the station except in the most crowded inner city locations.

With modern rear camera technology, backing up a fire truck should be a cinch compared to the past when a spotter was necessary. Furthermore, such a technology combined with warning beeps should virtually eliminate the dangers. Will accidents still happen? Most certainly, but the same is true with adding more drives, lanes, curb cuts, and driveways around buildings. The key is to manage and minimize the risk while not being unreasonable in the application of safety protocols.

Hopefully, rear camera or similar autonomous vehicle technologies will resolve this problem sooner versus later and allow buildings to be designed for people once again.

Am I wrong or whining too much about this issue? What do you think?

This entry was posted in adaptive reuse, architecture, infrastructure, land use, planning, spatial design, transportation, urban planning, zoning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Since when are fire trucks incapable of backing up?

  1. You really should have included some examples of these plans you object to. I’m personally familiar with the current design of new Chicago fire stations, which have the “drive-through” feature, with the garage essentially being merged with porte-cochere concept. It works great. I don’t have any basic objection to the developments your article refers to being designed to avoid having to make fire trucks back up. Time is of the essence, and backing up a fire truck takes a bunch of time to be done safely. Rear camera viewing is great but people still have to drive the truck.


  2. Manos Papanikolaou says:

    Men will continue driving fire trucks. As such they must be helped to drive safely – and the rear camera is one of enough technological imporvements coul be used.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben H says:

    Former firefighter here…….when a building is on fire there is usually a lot of smoke (visibility is bad) and general chaos, ambulances and other fire trucks arriving etc. so reversing is pretty difficult even with cameras/ spotters etc). In many situations you also want to point the vehicle away from the fire so if things go bad you have a way out.


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