Evaluating the Reliability of Emergency Response Systems for Large-Scale Incident Operations

Evaluating the Reliability of Emergency Response Systems for Large-Scale Incident Operations

Evaluating the Reliability of Emergency Response Systems for Large-Scale Incident Operations

Evaluating the Reliability of Emergency Response Systems for Large-Scale Incident Operations


While designers possess the creative capabilities of shaping cities, their often-singular obsession with form and aesthetics actually reduces their effectiveness as they are at the mercy of more powerful generators of urban form. In response to this paradox, Designing Urban Transformation addresses the incredible potential of urban practice to radically change cities for the better. The book focuses on a powerful question, "What can urbanism be?" by arguing that the most significant transformations occur by fundamentally rethinking concepts, practices, and outcomes. Drawing inspiration from the philosophical movement known as Pragmatism, the book proposes three conceptual shifts for transformative urban practice:

(a) beyond material objects: city as flux,

(b) beyond intentions: consequences of design, and

(c) beyond practice: urbanism as creative political act.

Pragmatism encourages us to consider how we can make deeper and more systemic changes and how urbanism itself can be a design strategy for such transformations. To illuminate how these conceptual shifts operate in vastly different contexts through analysis of transformative urban initiatives and projects in Belo Horizonte, Boston, Cairo, Karachi, Los Angeles, New Delhi, and Paris. The book is a rare integration of theory and practice that proposes essential ways of rethinking city-design-and-building processes, while drawing critical lessons from actual examples of such processes.


Bad things happen. Natural events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes, kill, injure, and create destruction over significant areas. Human-caused incidents, ranging from industrial accidents to deliberate acts of terrorist or criminal violence, can similarly injure or kill people, damage property, and disrupt daily life.

Recognizing that disasters will occur, we make investments in emergency preparedness. We train firefighters to deal with everything from everyday kitchen fires to wildland firefighting operations that may involve hundreds or even thousands of responders. We store relief supplies in warehouses, for delivery to flood victims who have lost their homes and are temporarily unable to care for themselves. We develop national policies and frameworks, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Target Capabilities List (TCL) to guide planning and help to integrate disparate preparedness efforts. Organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association and the Emergency Management Accreditation Program develop standards to help distinguish strong from weak preparedness programs. As a society, we take myriad other steps and make substantial investments—from the community to the national level—to prepare for varied types of emergencies.

Most of the time, when disaster strikes, response systems work exactly as planned— and perform as expected. To look at one descriptive statistic, across the United States there were 59 presidentially declared disasters and 49 fire management assistance declarations for major wildfires in 2009 (FEMA, 2009a). For most readers, many (or even most) of those events likely passed without notice, since the response organizations and systems charged with responding to these emergencies did so effectively, meeting the needs of the affected individuals and areas (see discussion in Miskel, 2008).

The NIMS (DHS, 2008b) was developed to provide a common management framework to organize response operations across the country. Based on similar systems developed over many decades in the wildland fire community, the NIMS structure standardizes how different functions in a response system are defined to strengthen the ability of separate response organizations to combine their efforts at an incident. The TCL (DHS, 2007b) is a national-level document that defines the capabilities involved in response (and other) operations, lays out their interconnections and dependencies, and provides some planning guidance for the levels of capabilities required for different areas.

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