In the past, opponents to pedestrian-centered urban planning have named EMS maneuverability as one of their foremost concerns, using this argument to push back against bike lanes and promenades. But the data tells the opposite story. In fact, car traffic is one of the major factors impacting EMS response times.

From the moment we started designing Culdesac Tempe, we've worked directly with the city’s fire department to ensure that safety came first in each step of the process. The result is a community centered around pedestrian walkways, but flexible enough to transform those walkways into EMS access paths when the need arises. 

Wide pedestrian pathways give service vehicles site-wide access

The International Fire Code applies nationwide and states that EMS access roads must be a minimum of 20 feet across. The widths of the central promenade (28 feet) and the paseos (20 feet) at Culdesac Tempe will all meet this standard.

When construction is complete, Culdesac Tempe’s walkways will be closed to day-to-day traffic. Landscape planters will provide a barrier to cars, ensuring that residents on foot can walk without worry. In case of emergencies, planters can be easily moved and mountable curbs will allow vehicular access to our promenade and paseos. And since no other vehicles will be present, emergency responders will actually have quicker access than they would in the case of a crowded road.

These wide lanes form a network that connects all four quadrants of the development, with narrower paths branching out. This means that a residence in the center of the development will receive emergency services in about the same time frame as a residence facing onto the street. 

Pedestrian walkways become Fire Access roads in an emergency

Flexible walkway material can carry the weight of EMS vehicles

The walkways themselves have been engineered for flexibility. We knew from the start that we didn’t want to use hard, heat-absorbing materials like asphalt that make for jarring steps, but we also needed something that would give EMS vehicles traction while handling their weight. We chose to use a combination of concrete pavers and stabilized decomposed granite. 

Stabilized decomposed granite is a porous and natural-looking surface, feels great underfoot, and also can stand up to tires when necessary. Permeable pavers create a pedestrian and urban feel, while minimizing runoff harm to the surrounding environment.

Stabilized decomposed granite (left) and permeable pavers (right) stand up to weight of fire trucks

Retractable ladders enable rooftop access

Ladders, including fire escapes, can present a challenge to developers. They’re crucial in an emergency, but can pose a potential security risk and get in the way of the view. When creating Culdesac Tempe, we once again met with the fire department to evaluate potential solutions in use around the globe. 

We found an ideal solution in the form of retractable ladders. They’re sturdy, but can also flatten against the building to resemble drain pipes. In the case of an emergency, they can be deployed by EMS in seconds, allowing them access to rooftops.

Retractable JOMY ladders enable roof-access

Fast and reliable EMS access is extraordinarily important in any community. By having no vehicular traffic at all, we have designed an environment that is simultaneously safer for residents and more accessible to emergency responders.