Estimating spatial efficiency using cyber search, GIS, and spatial optimization: a case study of fire service deployment in Los Angeles County

Richard L. Church, WenWen Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The efficiency of public investments and services has been of interest to geographic researchers for several decades. While in the private sector inefficiency often leads to higher prices, loss of competitiveness, and loss of business, in the public sector inefficiency in service provision does not necessarily lead to immediate changes. In many cases, it is not an entirely easy task to analyze a particular service as appropriate data may be difficult to obtain and hidden in detailed budgets. In this paper, we develop an integrative approach that uses cyber search, Geographic Information System (GIS), and spatial optimization to estimate the spatial efficiency of fire protection services in Los Angeles (LA) County. We develop a cyber-search process to identify current deployment patterns of fire stations across the major urban region of LA County. We compare the results of our search to existing databases. Using spatial optimization, we estimate the level of deployment that is needed to meet desired coverage levels based upon the location of an ideal fire station pattern, and then compare this ideal level of deployment to the existing system as a means of estimating spatial efficiency. GIS is adopted throughout the paper to simulate the demand locations, to conduct location-based spatial analysis, to visualize fire station data, and to map model simulation results. Finally, we show that the existing system in LA County has considerable room for improvement. The methodology presented in this paper is both novel and groundbreaking, and the automated assessments are readily transferable to other counties and jurisdictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-553
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016


  • Cyber search
  • fire deployment
  • geographic analysis
  • spatial optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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