FEMA to highlight NKU prof's research on urban sprawl and emergency response

News from NKU…

For immediate release…
Thursday – Sept. 27, 2012

FEMA to Highlight NKU Prof's Research on
Urban Sprawl and Emergency Response

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested a copy of Northern Kentucky University Assistant Professor Thomas Lambert’s upcoming research titled, “Ex-Urban Sprawl and Fire Response in the United States,” for its library and archives.

Dr. Lambert, who teaches in the NKU Master of Public Administration program, co-authored the article with Arun K. Srinivasan, assistant professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast and Martin Katirai, assistant professor of geography and planning at West Chester (Pa.) University. The paper will be published in the December issue of The Journal of Economic Issues.

Their research found a significant link between urban and suburban development and the probability of homes in such areas suffering from fire hazards and delayed fire department response. Newer residential development on the fringe of urban and metro areas is more likely to be adjacent to wildland areas, which suffer fire incidents at a rate greater than most areas. And these areas are often, because of their newness, some distance away from the nearest fire station or rely on volunteer fire departments which do not have the resources of a municipal fire department.

This will be the third paper published by Dr. Lambert on the topic, which he said he took an interest in while working on a project nine years ago at the University of Louisville. A case study then showed a link between sprawled development and delays in fire and EMS response in that region. “I wanted to know if this was the case throughout the United States and not just there,” he said.

Fire department response is about three minutes longer on average in fringe neighborhoods, with a maximum of 36 minutes waiting versus a maximum of 17 minutes waiting in older and more densely settled neighborhoods. Death rates due to fire incidents are also higher in newer fringe neighborhoods.

The authors recommend better local planning – especially with regard to public services, taxation and infrastructure – as one remedy to the problems.

Dr. Lambert said he was pleased to have FEMA request his research. “I am grateful…and excited about [FEMA] wanting to put this on its online library,” he said. “This may underscore or highlight the need for better integration and coordination between urban/neighborhood planning and emergency services planning. The ‘built environment’ of a locale or region is something that needs more emphasis in emergency management and services planning.”

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