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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P029582/1
Title: Improving the resilience of informal settlements to fire (IRIS-Fire)
Principal Investigator: Rush, Dr D
Other Investigators:
Bisby, Professor LA Spinardi, Dr G Walls, Dr RS
Hadden, Dr RM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Western Cape Government
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Scheme: GCRF (EPSRC)
Starts: 01 May 2017 Ends: 31 July 2020 Value (£): 1,176,143
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
17 Mar 2017 EPSRC GCRF 1 Meeting B - 17 March 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This high-impact project is concerned with how an interdisciplinary approach to fire science and engineering can improve the resilience of informal settlements against fires. Through a combination of state-of-the-art experimental and modeling fire science coupled with unique data gathering in informal settlements and novel applications of existing satellite data, we will deliver a framework to assess fire risk in informal settlements and propose technologically appropriate, data driven risk reduction methodologies.

Over one billion people across the globe live in informal shack settlements, and this number is ever increasing as urbanization increases. Many of these informal settlements are at constant risk of lethal and large scale fires, due to flammable construction materials, heating and cooking methods, proximity of the shacks, and a lack of effective fire services, amongst other factors. For occupants of these shacks, death and injury from fire constitute 'a serious public health problem'; 96% of the world's burn-related deaths (about 300,000 deaths annually) occur in lower- and middle-income countries.

Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent at 7% average increase between 1990-2015 and the population in urban clusters has increased by 484 million people in 25 years. In South Africa it is estimated that up to one third of the population now live in informal settlements, and in Cape Town the number of informal dwellings grew from around 28,000 in 1993 to 104,000 in 2006. Cape Town is known as the fire capital of South Africa and between 1990 and 2004 the Mandisa GIS database tracked over 18,500 fire incidents recorded, 47% occurred in informal settlements. On an annual basis there are around 500 deaths and 15,000 fire related hospital related admissions due to fire in the city, of which a substantial proportion are people from informal settlements.

The project will develop the new methods and tools required to evaluate and model the fire risks within South African informal settlements of the Western Cape so that situationally appropriate and cost-effective solutions and strategies can be suggested to improve the resilience of South African informal settlement communities against large-scale conflagrations.

This will be achieved through producing new guidelines, based on unique experimental data generated in the UK and in South Africa, surveying of Western Cape informal settlements to improve stochastic data on their composition and topography, probabilistic modelling of informal settlements based on validated models using experimental data, and important engagement and consultation with the stakeholders within informal settlements (NGOs, fire services, policy makers and local residents) to ensure that any new guidelines are appropriate and effective.

Additionally, a framework for risk mapping and monitoring, based on results of experiments and modelling within this project, will direct and inform where interventions using the guidelines are the most important, by highlighting the areas of highest conflagration risk. The modelling tools, frameworks, and associated data will be disseminated through free workshops and CPD events to informal settlement stakeholders, with the aim of developing capacity within South Africa to continue and improve research developments and design specifications of informal settlements with respect to fire safety engineering

The proposed developments of understanding, tools, frameworks and guidelines, whilst based on South African informal settlements will be produced in a way that can be easily transferred and applied to similar settlements elsewhere in the world. The benefit to all these settlements, in the Western Cape and elsewhere globally, will be a reduction of loss of life, property, and will increase the economic prospects of those who live in the poorest areas of the world.
Key Findings
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