Disruption of emergency response to vulnerable populations during floods

Dapeng Yu*, J.C.J.H. Aerts, Ning Lin, Shiyuan Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Emergency responders must reach urgent cases within mandatory timeframes, regardless of weather conditions. However, flooding of transport networks can add critical minutes to travel times between dispatch and arrival. Here, we explicitly model the spatial coverage of all Ambulance Service and Fire and Rescue Service stations in England during flooding of varying severity under compliant response times. We show that even low-magnitude floods can lead to a reduction in national-level compliance with mandatory response times and this reduction can be even more dramatic in some urban agglomerations, making the effectiveness of the emergency response particularly sensitive to the expected impacts of future increases in extreme rainfall and flood risk. Underpinning this sensitivity are policies leading to the centralization of the Ambulance Service and the decentralization of the Fire and Rescue Service. The results provide opportunities to identify hotspots of vulnerability (such as care homes, sheltered accommodation, nurseries and schools) for optimizing the distribution of response stations and developing contingency plans for stranded sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-736
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020


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