APCSC has found that Asbury Park’s Fire Department is coming on board with Complete Streets principles (the concept of the Road Diet is still somewhat a sticking point), but there are still holdouts (and also in our Police Department) clinging to the thinking that it’s all about response times, rather than accepting that faster road speeds lead to increasingly high numbers of traffic related injuries and deaths. It’s about #slowthecars and right-sized emergency vehicles.
Rule 51: Expand the Fire Chief’s Mandate
Rewrite the fire chief’s mandate to optimize public safety, not response times. Replace the 20-foot clear and minimum curb radii with more precise measures. Do not add or keep unwarranted signals in the name of preemption. Size new fire trucks to the community and not vice versa.
Perhaps the most ironic day in the life of every city planner is the one on which she discovers that her greatest opponent in making her city’s streets safer is the fire chief. How this bizarre circumstance has come to occur in city after city across the United States is a veritable morality play on the topics of siloed thinking, the confusion of ends and means, and Murphy’s Law. It goes something like this:
A faster response time is good, but not at the expense of life safety.
The fire chief’s job performance is typically judged on response time. The fire department’s budget is often based on the number of calls that fire trucks respond to. These two facts conspire to replace a fire chief’s natural mandate, optimizing the life safety of the community, with a much narrower focus: sending out lots of trucks, and getting them to their destinations quickly.
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