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titleCollege and University
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titleThe Guidelines define College and University as follows:

A building or building complex used as an institution of higher learning that grants a degree at the completion of a course of studies.

INCLUDES: 4‐year universities, community colleges, and technical colleges

DOES NOT INCLUDE: Trades schools such as cosmetology schools


What is a College/University? 

The Guidelines definition of College/University is quite specific, and the key factor is that an institution must grant a degree; there are 4 types of degrees: Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral. 

Degree-granting generally is regulated by the States, and so each State has a Higher Education Agency which oversees degree-granting institutions. The US Department of Education has a list of these State Higher Education Agencies. These agencies often maintain lists of the degree-granting institutions in their State (refer to the Data Sources pages on this website for each State to find out where to find these lists).

For the most part, this degree-granting requirement leaves out vocational schools (also called trade schools, career schools, or technical schools), which generally grant certificates but not degrees. An exception is technical colleges which do grant degrees.

A separate issue is accreditation. There are many accreditation organizations which generally are private professional organizations. Each State Higher Education Agency may determine which accreditation organizations have recognized authority within that State. Usually an institution may not grant a degree unless it has been accredited; however there are exceptions to this rule – some States allow religious colleges to grant degrees even if they are not accredited. Conversely, there may be schools that are accredited but do not give out degrees (only certificates).

A second, less obvious stipulation in the definition of College/University, is that there be a building used as an institution of higher learning. This leaves out online universities, unless they teach classes in their buildings as well as online.

Where do I place a College/University structure point?

In general, each college/university campus should be represented by a single structure point placed on the administrative building for that college/university. If one does not have firsthand knowledge of the location of the administration building, it can usually be gleaned from a brief examination of the school's web page. If it cannot be determined where the administration building is located, then place the structure point on a building at the center of the main cluster of buildings on the campus.

A University campus may contain several colleges or schools (ie College of Arts, College of Sciences, School of Business, School of Medicine), but so long as these are units of the same University and located on the same campus, then they should be represented by a single point. However in some cases, separate institutions may share the same campus (for example, the Auraria campus in Denver, Colorado is home to Metropolitan State University of Denver, the University of Colorado at Denver, and the Community College of Denver) – in this case each separate institution should be represented by a point. 

Some Colleges, especially in an urban environment, may have multiple campuses or widely dispersed buildings. This is somewhat of a grey area, but in general a separate campus should be represented by its own structure point. However, if a dispersed college location consists of a single building, or a few rooms in a single building, then you will have to use your own judgment as to whether it is important enough to be considered a campus and therefore justify a new structure point. 

Medical Schools that are co-located with Hospitals should be represented by a college/university structure point only if the medical school is large enough to have at least one building separate from the Hospital; if so, the associated Hospital would also be represented as a Hospital structure type.

titleFire Station / EMS Station
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titleThe Guidelines define Fire Stations and EMS Stations as follows:

A building that contains fire‐fighting equipment and personnel or a provider of combined fire‐fighting and rescue services.

INCLUDES: Fire departments with combined emergency medical services operations and/or rescue services  

DOES NOT INCLUDE: Ambulance stations not part of fire‐fighting services, fire equipment storage facilities, fire hall meeting facilities

What is a Fire Station/EMS Station? 

The basic requirement for a Fire Station/EMS Station is that the structure contains a fire engine. It may or may not also house an ambulance. It probably has fire personnel visiting it on a regular basis to keep the equipment clean and shiny and ready to go.

Where can I find authoritative lists of  Fire Stations? 

The US Fire Administration has the most complete nationwide list of fire departments. Their list is the result of a voluntary National Fire Department Census wherein during the years 2001 to 2004 fire departments filled out and handed in survey forms. The USFA is "continuously working to encourage more fire departments to participate in the census," however, since the original census now is almost 10 years old, some of the informaiton is out of date. The list can be downloaded for the entire nation or by State. The list is by Fire Department, so it will you tell you how many stations a Fire Department has, but not where they are. There may be some contact information, such as address, phone number, and website.

The Homefacts website has a list of fire departments by city and county (scroll to the bottom of the page to select a State); but the source of this data is unknown and its accuracy varies.

Refer to the State Data Sources section of this website where additional data sources may be listed for each State. County and city websites also often have information about fire departments; and counties often have an Office of Emergency Management where information can be found.

Fire Department web pages are the best source of data, but may not specify the locations of stations. Stations can generally be recognized in Aerial Imagery or in Street View on Google because the stations have large bays with overhead doors and large concrete pads outside where the engines can park.

How do I name a Fire Station? 

Try to find out the official name of the station; it often has the format: <fire-department-name> <station-name>. For example "Denver Fire Department Station 1". Official station names sometimes have either a "-" or a "/" in the station name, and while the Attribute Guidelines say that special characters should be avoided, they can be used if necessary to document an official fire station name.
Why are there no authoritative lists of fire/EMS stations? 

It seems surprising that there are no authoritative lists of fire/EMS stations, but this is because historically it has been felt that it is more important that they can find you, rather than for you to find them. They can find you through the 911 system. The 911 system generally is maintained at the county level, where 911 calls are routed to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). While you are talking to a 911 operator at a PSAP, various manual and automated systems are used to pinpoint the location of the call, to find the nearest fire/EMS (or police) station, and to get directions for how to drive to the scene of the call.
However in recent years, with the increased interest in the coordination of responses to public emergencies, there is a recognition that databases of emergency response assets are important to the public and to Offices of Emergency Management at all levels of government.