Safety & Security

    • Philadelphia fire commissioner Adam Thiel at The Original Apostolic Faith Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in North Philadelphia in March of 2018.

Q&A: How Philly’s firefighters keep the city’s historic buildings safe

Philadelphia is an especially historic city and one that is especially fire-prone too. Neighborhoods like Old City have seen a series of conflagrations in recent years, as historic buildings without…

    • The structure at 2621 N. Jefferson St. in Brewerytown, as it appeared after the June collapse.

Fishtown building collapse inspires construction enforcement bill

Philadelphia City Council wants to finance a crackdown on unsafe construction. A building collapse last week in Fishtown and another recent collapse in Germantown has inspired Councilmember Cindy Bass to introduce…

    • Dalia Burgos and her son Albert walk to Lewis Elkin School in Kensington.

New ‘Safe Corridors’ program brings parent patrols to opioid-plagued Kensington

Every school day, Dalia Burgos of Kensington walks her three children to school. The short walk has become a time for learning, but not in the way that Burgos would ever…



Any social effects of sound urban design were not discussed in the discipline until Jane Jacob’s Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she drew a direct connection between successful place-making and overall public safety. She argues that in order for all people to feel safe on city streets, an intricate social system is required more than a strong police force. That setting can only be achieved by designing the neighborhood so that there is constant use at all hours and a rich mixture of activities and buildings of different characters. This mix of uses creates an environment where there are always “eyes on the street,” thus making it harder for a crime to occur without repercussion. In her approach of increasing safety through urban design, Jacobs makes other recommendations, including shortening the length of city blocks and mixing buildings of various size and typology, a direct contrast in ideals with those who advocate consistent zoning as a tool to maintain the public’s safety and welfare.
Beyond everyday safety for urban dwellers, professionals must also plan and design for emergencies.  For example, even the coziest of streets must be designed to enable a fire truck to turn and park. Cities must also be built to survive natural disasters. Downtown Miami had to be rebuilt after Hurricane Andrew of 1993, and lots of the renewal used new materials that can withstand even a Category 5 hurricane.  Sanibel Island, Fla., has special design regulations and population ceilings to ensure that all residents can reach safety in case of a hurricane. And now as plans are developed for rebuilding New Orleans, careful attention is paid to development in floodplains, and the role of coastal wetlands and natural storm management systems in a healthy ecosystem.



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