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Studies in Applied Geography and Spatial Analysis

Addressing Real World Issues

Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes

This timely and fascinating book illustrates how applied geography can contribute in a multitude of ways to assist policy processes, evaluate public programs, enhance business decisions, and contribute to formulating solutions for community-level problems.
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Chapter 7: Spatial optimization: expanding emergency services to address regional growth and development

Alan T. Murray, Daoqin Tong and Tony H. Grubesic


Growth and development of a region can strain the provision of public services. One issue that many growing communities face is where to site fire stations. Because fires are destructive, costly and threaten lives, the provision of fire suppression services is an essential component of maintaining community safety. Further, the strategic placement of stations is essential because fast response times increase the chances of minimizing danger and damage. Unfortunately, fire stations are expensive, requiring approximately US$2 million in fixed costs for each station in the United States of America (USA), plus annual costs to staff and maintain. As a result, only limited investment is possible for most communities and location decisions must be good ones, taking into account future growth and development. The chapter discusses a study conducted for a city in California, USA anticipating substantial regional growth. The objective of community leaders was to develop an investment plan for fire services over a 5–10-year span. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis and spatial optimization modeling were utilized to assist them in making decisions about where to site future fire stations capable of responding to anticipated emergencies as the region grows and develops. Growth and development is an issue that most cities, regions and states would like to be faced with as this is indicative of prosperity. Unfortunately, sustained regional growth is increasingly reserved for select locales that offer a good quality of life and strong local amenities, such as recreational opportunities, low cost of living, high wages, art and culture and quality healthcare (Rogerson, 1999).

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