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Multiple exits required for neighborhoods

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Emergency crews racing to the explosion at Richmond Hill had to use one street to get about 70 firefighters and medics to houses that were on fire. Meanwhile, more than 150 people were rushing out.

In Marion County, the recommendation is for neighborhoods and subdivisions with more than 50 homes to have at least two entrances. But that’s not a requirement, and neither police nor fire departments review those plans in advance, department of metropolitan development spokesman John Bartholomew said.

In Johnson County, Greenwood and White River Township require neighborhoods with more than 50 homes to construct at least two streets into the neighborhood. Franklin has the same requirement for neighborhoods with 30 homes, planning directors Bryan Pohl, Ed Ferguson and Krista Linke said.

The requirements for Greenwood and White River Township have been in place for more than 10 years. The White River Township Fire Department drafted the ordinance for the roughly 26 square miles it covers, while the Greenwood Fire Department worked for a rule in the city, White River Township Fire Chief Jeremy Pell and Ferguson said.

The point of the requirement is to ensure emergency crews can get to fires or disasters such as this past weekend’s explosion as quickly as possible, Pell said.

“It just ensures that emergency responders can respond to a neighborhood effectively in the event of there being such a major disaster,” he said.

When fire crews respond to a house fire, they typically want their ladder and hose trucks in front of the house; and once those are parked, it’s nearly impossible to get other trucks and equipment around them. That can make it difficult for fire crews to get to all of the fire hydrants that they need, Pell said.

If the single entrance to a neighborhood were blocked, fire crews might not be able to get to the fire at all, Pell said.

But if neighborhoods and subdivisions have at least two ways in that ensures crews can better position themselves to get to all of the hydrants they need to. That can also cut down on their response time, Pell said.

When a new neighborhood is being approved in Greenwood or White River Township, the fire departments review the plans to make sure they meet the entrance requirements, as well as the fire department’s other standards. Those include making sure the fire hydrants aren’t too far away from each other. In White River Township, hydrants must be within 500 feet in neighborhoods and 300 feet at apartments and condos.

The fire department also checks to be sure the streets are the right size and have enough of a radius that fire trucks can get in and out, Pell said.

“We hope (a disaster) never happens, but it’s exactly what we’re planning for so that we can have quick, efficient access to that incident and save the precious minutes for the people we’re responding to,” Pell said.

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