This short video highlights the importance of urban planning when it comes to facilitating the arrival and positioning of firefighting vehicles in the event of any sort of emergency. 

The video explains the requirements relating to approaches and space around buildings, according to the regulations set out in the basic document on safety in the event of fire, section 5 (“Intervention of Fire Services, in the Technical Building Code (CTE)).



Description of an aerial unit


Among the various types of vehicles used by the Fire Service, the aerial unit stands out due to its dimensions and the difficulties posed by manoeuvrability.

Aerial vehicles are specifically designed with extendible ladders for fire and rescue operations very high up. There are aerial units of different dimensions. 

In general, these vehicles are 2.5 metres wide and can open out and put down stabilising legs, making their base 5.20 metres wide. In the event of having to put out a fire in a flat, a further two metres width are needed behind the tower so that hose pipes can be rolled out.

The length of aerial units with ladders varies according to the model, the largest usually being 11 metres long. To get into and out of the box at the top of the ladder safely, it needs to be on the ground, with the ladder inclined from the back of the vehicle. This makes the overall length of the vehicle 20 metres, from the cabin to the platform box.

The aerial unit is particularly useful in the following cases:

  • Putting out fires in flats.
  • Rescuing and evacuating victims from a fire or precipice.
  • Getting close up in the case of suicide attempts and evacuating people.
  • Rescuing various people at the same time, using the bridge function. 
  • Rescuing animals.
  • Cleaning façades.

Requirements for urban planning projects in accordance with the fire safety regulations for approach areas to buildings.

To achieve the right conditions for fire extinction and rescue tasks using an aerial unit, it is important that urban planning projects stick to the fire protection regulations. Whether these projects are for modifying existing urban sites or for new urban developments, point DB SI 5 of the basic fire safety document specifies the conditions for the approaches and space required for the intervention of the Fire Service. 

The text states the following: “Approaches for fire vehicles must comply with the following conditions”:

  • Minimum width clearance:    3.5m
  • Minimum height or loading gauge:    4.5m
  • Force capacity for the approach:    20 kN/m2

In sections with bends, the approach must be delimited by radii of a minimum of 5.30 m and 12.50 m respectively. The clearance width for circulation must be 7.20 m.




Requirements for urban planning projects according to the fire safety regulations for space for fire fighting vehicles

Once the aerial unit arrives at the scene of the emergency, the vehicle must be positioned. The Technical Building Code and the by-law regulating fire protection conditions in Barcelona specify the minimum values to be maintained for space around buildings. 

City buildings must have manoeuvring space available for fire fighters, free of obstacles for the full height of the building (including tree branches, urban furniture etc.) of a minimum of 5 metres in width and for the full height of the building.

The maximum separation between fire vehicles and the façade of a building no higher than 20 metres must be 15 metres.

The maximum separation between fire vehicles and the façade of a building higher than 20 metres must be 10 metres.

To ensure a safe and efficient rescue, it is important to know that the ladder on an aerial unit must reach in the perpendicular as far as the window of the affected person.

Resistance over the point on the ground must be 100 kN over a circle with a diameter of 20 cm. Where this resistance is lower, the stabilising legs for the vehicles can break the pavement or piece the ground, destabilising the vehicle and the ladder in the middle of the extinction or rescue operation.

Reference framework for regulations

  • DB-SI 5 “Intervention of firefighters”, from the basic document SI “Safety in the case of fire”, from the Technical Building Code. 
  • Article 2 “Accessibility and openings on façades for firefighters”, from Annexe 1 of the By-law regulating the conditions for fire protection in Barcelona.
  • TINSCI DT 12. “Approaches and space at buildings for access by the Fire Service”.
  • Annexe 2. In “Accessible façades”, from the Safety regulations in the event of fires on industrial premises (RSCIEI).
  • Complementary technical instruction SP-113:2009 “Sufficient manoeuvring space in approaches with a single access point”.
  • File 4.02, Barcelona Fire Service, “Fire hydrant systems”.
  • File 5.01, Barcelona Fire Service, “Closures in approaches for emergency vehicles”.
  • File 1.17, Barcelona Fire Service, “Technical documentation for intervention by the SPEIS”.