Environmental Assessment Factors and Categories eGuide

Public Safety – Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical


Adequacy of existing fire, police, and ambulance services should be considered for the project site. Although many communities have sophisticated protective services, the consistency of adequate service differs from place to place. Within communities, one site may be better served than another.

Factors in the variability of protective services include the availability of funds for additional coverage and the degree to which building and growth are coordinated with the provision of new municipal services. Key variables within each city are emergency equipment, emergency service personnel, response time, and access. These factors influence the availability and adequacy of required emergency services.

Important Considerations

  1. What police services are located within reasonable proximity to the proposed project? What is the approximate response time?
  2. What firefighting protection is located within reasonable proximity to the proposed project? What is the approximate response time?
  3. Is the firefighting protection service adequate and equipped to service the project?
  4. Is the project in an area of likely wildfire intensification? If so, how much additional strain will the project put on the local firefighting protection service? What fire mitigation best practices will be adopted to minimize this impact?
  5. What emergency health care providers are located within reasonable proximity to the proposed project? What is the approximate response time?
  6. Will the project create a significant burden on police, fire, or health care providers in terms of manpower and/or equipment?

Analysis Techniques

First, review the project plans to determine:

  • The location of the project in relation to each type of protective service
  • The size of the building and the number and type of users/residents to estimate the demand for protective services (population growth in an area generally increases demand on police and fire service and admittance at medical facilities)
  • The type of building materials as an indication of their resistance to fire and compliance with local codes
  • Access routes for accessibility for emergency vehicles and compliance with local regulations
  • Fire hydrant locations and availability of firefighting equipment
  • The nearest medical facility to the project site

Next, consult secondary data, including:

  • Fire-Service Maps: Obtained from the local fire department, these show the distance to the nearest fire station (and usually police station). Use these to estimate response time.
  • Local Fire or Police Department: If provided with the location and size of the project, the police and fire departments can determine whether they will be able to service the project adequately without increasing their staff. They can also assist with estimating response times to the site.
  • Emergency Medical Service Plans: Local hospitals or health, fire, and police departments can usually provide these.

Field observation may help determine the age and condition of surrounding buildings, location of fire hydrants, emergency call boxes, nearby police and fire stations, and evidence of a high crime rate in the area.


  • Consult with police and fire departments for additional information on local conditions.
  • Consult with the fire department to determine if water pressure and road service (e.g., the width of roads, space to turn around, etc.) are adequate for fire equipment. Access is critical for emergency fire service.

A determination of an adverse impact may result if:

  • Protective services are presently strained (or likely to become strained in the near future) and there are no plans to increase services
  • The distance to the closest fire station is more than 1.5 miles (in high-density areas) or 2 miles (in low-density areas)
  • The nearest hydrant is more than 600 feet away
  • Police response time is greater than 3 minutes
  • Access by ambulances is difficult

NOTE: Response time standards are drawn from nationally recognized standards

Mitigation Measures

Specific measures include:

  • Expanding local police, fire, and emergency medical services in the community to adequately service the project
  • Including safety features in the project such as fences, lighting, alarm systems, and private guards to increase public safety
  • Redesigning the project site plan to improve police surveillance, neighborhood resident surveillance, and roadway design for emergency access
  • Investigating how developers might contribute to additional service costs
  • Providing supplemental protective service by hiring a private security service
  • Adding an alarm system if one has not been included in project plans
  • Incorporating fire mitigation measures, such as using fire-resistant construction techniques and maintaining defensible space
  • Consult forward looking regional wildfire maps to assess the change in risk over the development’s lifetime associated with climate change

Resources to Reference/Experts to Contact

  • Chief of local Fire Department
  • Chief of local Police Department
  • Local chapter or national office of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
  • Local Emergency Management Agencies
  • Administrator of a local Emergency Medical Agency such as The Ambulance Corps in the Department of Health or the Local Rescue Squad
  • Local Medical Society