By Suzan Afacan
While I was doing my master’s in the Mathematics department at UW-Madison, I realized that I wanted to see the direct benefits of my research in the society. I started to pursue an area in which I could use my math knowledge (since I love math :)) and see what kind of improvements I could do in the others’ life. Operation Research (OR) fitted very well into what I was looking as a growing researcher. After meeting with Prof. Laura Albert McLay, I decided that using mathematical modeling to improve the emergency services deployment was the area that I wanted to study. Aligning my math knowledge with this research topic, I think that I will be able to achieve my goal that is to do good things for the society.
Now, I am a second year PhD student in the ISyE department at UW-Madison under advisor Prof. Laura Albert McLay. My research is about Network Design and Scheduling. I am considering the scheduling of emergency services during extreme event situations such as snowstorm or tornadoes in my research. The most important feature of my research is modeling the dependency between infrastructure services and emergency services. This dependency becomes more important to overcome during these kinds of extreme situations.
Let me start with the historical overview of the Operation Research (OR) applications about the emergency services;
Green and Kolesar’s (2004) “Anniversary article: Improving emergency responsiveness with management science” is a great paper reviewing the historical development of the OR applications of the emergency services.
OR applications of emergency services started in 1960s. “If we can land a man on a moon, why can’t we…?”. This became a motivation for researchers to apply analytical thinking and the technology for the public problems. A collaboration between The New York City – RAND Institute (NYCRI) and RAND Corporation of Santa Monica, California, improved the modeling of emergency services deployment. Even though the root of RAND was military based, the institute has extended its research area to the public related issues since the late 1960s.
-First Task of RAND
Between 1963 and 1968, fire alarms in New York City increased 96% and the number of rescue sources remained same. Additionally, the New York Fire Department (FDNY) was still using telegraphic – driven bell system since the fire engines were horse – drawn. Therefore, RAND’s first task was to bring high- technology communication system to the FDNY.
Due to the budget problems in the New York City, fire stations were subject to closings. The RAND’s model was also used to determine which fire stations would be closed. Even though the RAND’s model was considered to minimize the impact of the closings on the system’s performance, this ended up in the court by fire-fighter’s union and the residences living in the neighborhood of the closed stations.
After 9/11, it has been crucial to be ready and have a plan in advance for extreme events and situations. However, there are still obstacles about implementing the new models since the implementation will involve politics. Though this cannot change the importance of the OR models in the emergency services in minimizing the impact of the extreme events for our society’s sake.
-About The Future Blog Posts
As a UW-Madison student, this blog will be a great opportunity for me to reach out to more people and start to make a positive impact in the society as an operations researcher. As we learn more about the public sector OR, I will have more featured blog posts regarding how to make OR more applicable to public problems. What are the challenges? How can we overcome these challenges?
This will also be an important chance to demonstrate our Wisconsin idea. STAY TUNED AND ON WISCONSIN…
Green, Linda V., and Peter J. Kolesar. “Anniversary article: Improving emergency responsiveness with management science.” Management Science 50.8 (2004): 1001-1014.