Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Seconds Matter

AFD Ladder Truck #1

One critical component of war that has not changed since the dawn of civilization is the advantage of occupying the high ground--the quicker the better.  A major structure fire is a formidable foe where warlike strategies are brought to bear for a quick decisive victory, that oftentimes can make a life or death difference.

Ladder Truck #1 is like a big ol' battleship: a formidable tool for dealing with a formidable enemy...but, she requires lots of maneuvering room and a firm ground for footing.

A dozen years ago when the downtown Boltwood Walk Parking Garage war raged (yes, politics is also warlike)  one of the details NIMBYs pounced upon was the public safety concern that AFD could not maneuver the ladder truck over most of the new garage if an underground component was added.  

Town officials came up with simple plan for the ladder truck to get to the adjacent Clark House, a six story structure operated by the Amherst Housing Authority, loaded with senior citizens and folks with physical handicaps.  

Artisans beveled the curb at the Main Street garage entrance 20 feet across to allow a large heavy vehicle to easily pass up and over, and granite pavers were supposed to be sprinkled throughout the lawn area to add stability so that a firetruck would not get stuck.
Curb beveled to allow easy vehicular access but no pavers added to greenway

Fast forward to today.  The pavers were never installed, two "Handicapped Parking" signs are now a direct obstruction and a ginkgo tree was recently planted that years from now may also be in the way (although all firetrucks carry a chainsaw).
 Signs need to go, large tree (center) needs branches pruned back
Clark House southern end 

Adjacent Ann Whalen Apartments are more easily accessible via Kellogg Avenue and using the parking lot the ladder truck could get to the halfway point of Clark House, but not the southernmost end

Rear side Ann Whalen (right) and northern side Clark House (left) which combined contain 180 units of affordable housing for the elderly, disabled and low income families

As it currently stands the ladder truck can only get to the southern end of Clark House with great difficulty because of two extra, time consuming 90 degree turns. Town officials or the Amherst Redevelopment Authority need to revert back to the original more efficient safety plan. Soon.

Yes, both apartment complexes are sprinklered--but then, so were the Twin Towers. And we already saw the horrific results of innocent civilians having to chose between death by fire, or death by fall.


Anonymous said...

umm, the Twin Towers reference seems WAYY over the top and and quite an extreme comparison. I see the similarity you were making, which makes sense, but it's still quite the left turn it threw me off as a reader

Anonymous said...

Last I checked, there has NEVER been a death due to fire in ANY sprinklered residence in the US. In other words, sprinklers have a 100% success rate at saving lives in a fire. It is a shame that sprinklers aren't required by code for all home. (Yes, I have sprinklers in my home.)

That said, truck access is a good thing. But it is very much secondary to sprinklers.

LarryK said...

Last I checked, a tad expensive.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic, but still public safety.. whats up with the "regional dispatch center?" I asked a dispatcher from Amherst and she said they are in the dark, and have no idea as to the status.