Fifty years of operational research and emergency response

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Over the past 50 years, a wealth of applications has resulted from researchers turning their attention to operations such as fire suppression, law enforcement and ambulance services. The 1970s might even be argued as the ‘golden age’ of this particular effort, producing many of the seminal works in fire station location planning, unit assignment and ambulance queuing models. Such efforts naturally continue through to the present, but with a focus shifting away from earlier contexts of established urban emergency service systems. Simultaneously, current evidence from the field suggests that far more work remains. In this paper, we review the operational research (OR) foundation in emergency response so far, highlighting the fact that most of what has been accomplished addresses the well-structured problems of emergency services. This, in turn, offers an explanation for some paradoxical challenges from the field: most of emergency response itself is semi-structured, at best. While OR has traditionally focused on the management of an organization, emergency response ultimately requires the management of disorganization, suggesting an important OR growth area for the next 50 years.Journal of the Operational Research Society (2009) 60, S126–S139. doi:10.1057/jors.2009.3

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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