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Fire risk reduction on the margins of an urbanizing world

Bankoff, Greg; Rush, David; Cooper-Knock, Sarah Jane; Gibson, Lesley; Hirst, Laura; Jordan, Steve; Spinardi, Graham; Twigg, John; Walls, Richard


Greg Bankoff

David Rush

Sarah Jane Cooper-Knock

Lesley Gibson

Laura Hirst

Steve Jordan

Graham Spinardi

John Twigg

Richard Walls


Globally, over 95% of fire related deaths and injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries. Within informal settlements, the risk of fire resulting in injury or death is particularly high. This paper examines fire risks in informal settlements in New Delhi and Cape Town, and tented informal settlements in Lebanon. Our analysis draws on primary sources, secondary literature, statistical data and qualitative interviews. The distribution of fire risk across urban societies is a fundamentally political issue. Residential fire risk can be tackled by accessible, affordable, safety-compliant housing. That said, important interim measures can be taken to mitigate fire risk. Some of the risks requiring attention are similar across our case studies, driven by high population densities; flammable housing materials; unreliable or inaccessible access to safe power sources; and - in the case of Cape Town and New Delhi particularly - the inability of fire services to reach sites of fire. However, these common risks are embedded in distinct social, economic and political contexts that must be placed at the centre of any intervention. Interventions must also be aware that the risk of fire is not spread evenly within informal settlements, intersecting as it does with factors like gender, age, health and disability. Informal settlement fires have been under-studied to date. The studies that do exist tend to operate within disciplinary silos. This paper represents an important interdisciplinary approach to fire within informal settlements, which grounds technical data, modelling and experiments in political, social and economic realities.


Bankoff, G., Rush, D., Cooper-Knock, S. J., Gibson, L., Hirst, L., Jordan, S., …Walls, R. (in press). Fire risk reduction on the margins of an urbanizing world. Disaster Prevention and Management,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Sep 18, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 19, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal
Print ISSN 0965-3562
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Urban fire; Risk reduction; Case studies; New Delhi; Cape Town; Lebanon; Refugee
Public URL
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