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London’s burning: integrating water flow rates and building types into fire risk maps

Thomas Ronan (Harrow Fire Station, London Fire Brigade, London, UK)
Richard Teeuw (School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 3 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore fire risk and preparedness, with regard to water flow rates and building types in London, focusing on Southall district.


A land use survey was carried out to identify water requirements for firefighting across the study area. Local fire hydrant flow rates were analysed, using measurements taken during 2013 and archive data held by the London Fire Brigade (LFB). QGIS was used to explore relationships between fire hydrant flow rates, urban fire risk and socio-economic vulnerability data held by the LFB.


A new type of map, which includes data on water flow rates and building types, was created using QGIS and applied to Southall district, resulting in a map showing Combined Vulnerability to fires. Inadequate fire hydrant water supply was found across many parts of the borough.

Practical implications

This new approach to the evaluation and mapping of urban fire risk could be applied in other cities, to assess problems with water supply and the firefighting water flow requirements of various building types. The methodology can thus assist with adaptations to urban fire resource allocation, tactics, planning and preparedness.

Social implications

When socio-economic data are also available, this Geographical Information System-based methodology becomes very useful for assessing fire risk and developing strategies for preparedness and response.


This is the first time that London’s fire hydrant water pressures have been mapped and linked with socio-economic vulnerability maps, to produce a Combined Vulnerability map for assessing fire risk.



Ronan, T. and Teeuw, R. (2016), "London’s burning: integrating water flow rates and building types into fire risk maps", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 34-51.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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