Methods for Allocating Urban Emergency Units

A Survey

by Jan M. Chaiken, Richard C. Larson


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A description of common characteristics and operational problems of emergency service systems. This paper surveys various methods used for allocating mobile units, or vehicles. Allocation policy aspects include (1) determination of numbers of units on duty, (2) location of units, (3) design of their response or patrol areas, (4) relocation of units, and (5) design of preventive patrol patterns for police cars. Using quantitative allocation models, the authors suggest possible policy changes. Typical examples include (1) selective queuing of low-priority calls, (2) varying numbers of units on duty and their locations by time of day, (3) dispatching units other than the closest ones to certain incidents, (4) relocating units as unavailabilities develop, and (5) assigning police cars to overlapping patrol sectors. These changes can reduce queuing and travel-time delays, improve workload balance among units, and increase amount of preventive patrol where needed.

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