GIS Resources for Fire/Rescue and EMS

Fire service GIS analysts, end-users and senior management alike can now take advantage of useful tools, training and information to help build GIS capacity within your fire/rescue department.  We have included resources for rookies, experts, and everyone in-between. We’ve organized items by role and level to help you find what you need.  Whether you are from a small, large, rich or poor department, there is something here for you.
Esri has recently released a series of fire department maps and applications, as well as a new whitepaper, “GIS for the Fire Service”. The expanding fire/rescue EMS GIS community is continuously producing and sharing excellent resources. The Fire Mapping articles in ArcUser and the new MapSAR tools and training collateral are two excellent examples. Below is a compilation of all of these resources with descriptions of what is available and links to help you find what you need.
These resources are available today because of the unyielding efforts of an amazing community of fire service GIS professionals and advocates. We want to thank you—our connected user community—for all of your excellent work and collaboration.
At the Esri User Conference we will be handing out a condensed version of this list.  This Fire GIS Resources flyer provides references to the most commonly used resources.
Below is the expanded version. The items are grouped in categories: getting started, training, tools, events, and national policy. And finally, each is categorized by level and target audience.  We hope you find them useful.
GIS Resources for Fire/Rescue and EMS  
Level: B = Beginner, I = Intermediate, A = Advanced, E = Everyone
Role: T = Technical, N = Non-technical, E = Everyone  
Title Category Level Role Description
  Get Started:

Our advice for everyone: Don’t get overwhelmed with everything a GIS can do; start from where you are and what you need; find a good mentor; and expand as your needs and skills evolve.
Especially for those who are new to GIS or the fire service, these resources will orient you to fundamental principles and general overview of the lay of the land.
The new GIS for the Fire Service whitepaper is an especially useful reference to help get (and keep) everyone on the same page with terms and requirements.
Guide to Building a Public Safety GIS
Get Started B E Basic Principles of GIS concepts and uses.
for The Fire Service
Get Started E E An Esri Whitepaper with more details on GIS for the Fire
Applications of GIS for EM
Get Started B N A FEMA hosted online training class which provides a good
introduction to how GIS works and is used for emergency management.
Fire/EMS Webpage
Get Started E E Best Practice Examples, Stories, and General Resources.
Get Started E E Click on “industry specific” and then “public safety” to
subscribe to the Public Safety Log.

A hallmark of Esri GIS is scalability: from basic to advanced, from free to system-wide capital investment; the ArcGIS suite of software has something to offer. Built on industry IT standards with open application programming interfaces (API’s); your system will grow as your needs, skills and resources.  Esri offers a suite of core software tools to form the platform upon which your entire GIS program can evolve. Starting with the free web-based tools available at ArcGIS Online, you can access fire service data and maps posted by federal and state agencies, the public, and perhaps even your agency or local jurisdiction.
When you are ready to build your own internal capability, ArcGIS core products serve as a platform which forms the backbone of your GIS program. Often departments begin with the cost efficient ArcGIS desktop products which can be extended with free resources such as Esri map and app templates from the Public Safety Resource Center, Esri partner solutions, and custom applications built to fit more advanced specific system requirements.
As you begin to expand even further into the ArcGIS server environment, your department will be able to benefit from the robust geoprocessing tools and published services shared out by the
wider community of fire GIS users.
Tools I E A great free resource for accessing GIS data, publishing maps
you have created, and creating groups to share resources and ideas. If you
already have some GIS experience jump online and follow instructions for
signing up.
Start Guide To ArcGIS Online
Tools B E If you are new to GIS, click here to download the brochure for
instructions on how to join this community of GIS users to share maps, apps
and data.
Tools E T To download a trial version of Esri’s ArcGIS software, scroll
down to the “Try it today ArcGIS 10 for Desktop” box and click on the green
“Free Trial” button.
Tools I E Community Analyst is an online subscription service for
accessing demographic, lifestyle and business data which is very useful for
understanding populations.
Station Wall Map
Tools I T Esri publishes Maps, Apps and Information Models in topical galleries to use “out-of-the-box” or as example templates to copy or customize for your work. Many of these are published as supported applications for customers with Esri software. A series of Fire Department applications is in development, with 12 different applications planned over
Run Book
Tools I E
Fire Planning
Tools I E
Safety Blog
Tools I E Information on how to use these and other Esri templates.
  Technical Training
Esri offers four kinds of training venues:
  • instructor led classroom training in Redlands and most regional offices
  • online classes (various forms)
  • tutorial books and articles for self-paced learning
  • free workshops and user groups
Many other resources for learning exist as well including but not limited to:
  • NAPSG, CPSE, IACA classes and workshops
  • Independent instructor led courses in your area
  Efforts are underway to establish a national curriculum for fire service GIS. Below is a guide to currently available resources many fire service professionals have found useful.
Getting Started With GIS (for ArcGIS 10) Training B E These three free online technical training courses give technicians to be a good jump start on learning the basic GIS skills you will need to get going.
Basics of Coordinate Systems (for ArcGIS 10) Training B E
Editing in ArcGIS Desktop 10 Training I E
Getting To Know ArcGIS Training B E These are two good hardcopy book tutorials with similar content as above online training. There are several other similar options – search
the Esri press catalog to find the one that best fits your learning style.
GIS 20: Essential Skills
Training B E
Training E E There are several other similar options – search the Esri press catalog to find the one that best fits your learning style.
Training A T Training materials and tutorials for doing spatial statistics (for specialized hot spots, etc).
Fire Mapping: Street Networks in ArcGIS Training I T This is an excellent collection of training tutorials compiled from a series of articles written by Mike Price, a long-term GIS professional analyst, consultant, trainer and friend of the fire service. Note: Earlier articles are based on previous versions of Esri software, but the basic principles and concepts still apply to fire workflows.
Fire Mapping: Datasets in ArcGIS Training I T
Best Practices for Fire Mapping
Training I T
Homeland Security Tutorial Training I T Training on analytic workflows commonly used in many fire service applications.
MapSAR Training I E Search and Rescue (SAR) tools from the MapSAR team.
Mapping I and II for Fire
Training I T If you happen to live in NJ, you can attend this class offered through the NJ Fire Training Academy. It is on page 43 of the Spring 2012 catalog at this link – see current catalogs as published.
  Events and Workshops

The most valuable resource that goes into building a good GIS is the people. The educational content at the events listed below is crucial; the network of people you will meet is indispensable.
Security Summit
Events B N Annual Summit co-located with Esri Annual User Conference.
User Conference
Events E E Annual gathering of GIS users in San Diego CA.
Events E E Regional Summits: Annual events bringing together the user groups and leadership teams for training, networking and planning.
NAPSG RLT’s Events E E Regional Leadership Teams and user groups.
GIS for Accreditation Events B N Under “online training” click on “Virtual Advanced Technology for Community Risk/Standards of Cover to learn about the CPSE sponsored GIS Training
for Accreditation.
National Policy—News, Standards, and National Organizations
The grass roots community of fire/rescue GIS users has advocated for support at the national level and the national leadership has been listening. The national public safety associations and federal agencies have been hard at work and we are beginning to see a strong and growing level of effort to publish standards, training, and guidance to support local agencies wishing to benefit from what GIS has to offer.
Nat’l Policy I T NFPA is the national standards organization for the US fire service. NFPA 950 will be a new standard for data development and exchange (includes specifications for GIS). It will be published in 2015 and is open for public comment now. You can find it on the NFPA website ( by searching for 950 and clicking on “next edition”. The guide (document #951) will include a lot of good information on technology planning and
implementing a GIS.  The draft has been submitted to council and will hopefully be posted for public comment soon.
NFPA 951 Nat’l Policy B N
Nat’l Policy I N In addition to creating standards, NFPA hosts many important national fire prevention programs. The NFPA FireWise Program is a good resource for wildfire maps.
NAPSG Nat’l Policy E E The National Alliance for Public Safety GIS is a consortium of national associations promoting the advancement of GIS for public safety. They host communities of interest, workshops and many valuable resources.
NWCG-GSTOP Nat’l Policy A T The GSTOP program has the standards, training, and tools for the GIS Specialist credentials for GIS analysts supporting incident management teams.
Contributed by Jennifer Schottke, Fire/EMS and Public Safety Policy Specialist
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One Comment

  1. rivero106 says:

    What a great Public Safety Resource page. The explanation of the needs and capabilities of GIS in the Fire Service coupled with a brief description of the implementation process make the WP “GIS for The Fire Service” an excellent piece of work. Way to go ESRI Public Safety Team. Keep it up. To my sisters and brothers behind the Maltese; read it, share it, and push it ( As always STAY SAFE.