Tuesday, November 24

Emergency response times and sprawl

A study on emergency response times to vehicle accidents from University of Virginia researchers has been published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Here are the results:

"Urban sprawl is significantly associated with increased EMS response time and a higher probability of delayed ambulance arrival following motor-vehicle crashes in the U.S. The results of this study suggest that promoting of community design and development that follows smart-growth principles and regulates urban sprawl may improve EMS performance and reliability"
Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, an author of the paper, discusses:

The medical profession has been paying close attention to the health implications of land use patterns and design in recent years, and this paper's finding adds to the growing body of literature with similar conclusions. Health Impact Assessments are being used by many communities to apply some of these results to specific places.

One of the benefits of the national conversation about health care we've been having for the last six months is that the public is becoming more aware of how comprehensive health care really is. We've come to understand that no strategy for reducing costs can be successful without paying attention to preventative care. Sadly, the most advanced treatments available may not be of any help if the ambulance is 5 minutes late.


Eric Orozco said...

Emergency response time and street connectivity was a topic brought up at the 2008 CNU Transportation Summit in Charlotte. Charlotte's DOT presented a study pinning emergency response times to the fiscal responsibility of maintaining fire stations in different areas. The study (more here) found, for example, that "...stations in least-connected areas (suburban cul-de-sac neighborhoods) cost $586 to $740 per capita annually; the stations in most-connected areas cost $159 to $206 per capita annually."

We subsidize the cul-de-sac McMansion subdivisions many ways - roads, emergency response, environmental impacts, loss of farm land, etc - in ways that do not pay back for themselves. All those hidden costs (including health care) are grossly out of sync with the return of actual suburban tax revenues...

The first step to global sustainability is to help create neighborhood patterns that are actually sustained by their own communities, not exploiting an unfair transfer of wealth from urban, natural and agricultural locations.

Neil Williamson said...

Facinating study. I believe the concept Dr. Trowbridge spoke of in the video of EMS response scoring may become a reality (just as your homeowners insurance determines the distance to both a hydrant and a fire station).

Armed with this information, some people will choose to live in cul-de-sac McMansions (as Eric described them). I fail to see this as a bad thing. Informed citizens make informed decisions. The return on suburban tax revenues are determied by the locality applying the taxes.

Reading Eric's comment I am concerned that the first step to global sustainability is giving up freedom of choice and movement. I would argue that the first step in global sustainability is to create flexible design criteria and allow creativity to flourish and the market to embrace such living patterns.