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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.

  • INDICATORS: offers associates degrees or higher.

INCLUDES: 4‐year universities and community colleges, junior colleges requiring a high school diploma or equivalent for admission.

DOES NOT INCLUDE: Technical / trade schools offering technical training for job-specific certifications.


What is a College / University? 

The key indicator of a college or university is that the institution grants degrees.  There are 4 types of degrees: Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral.

Degree-granting is generally regulated by the States, with each having a higher education agency to oversee degree-granting institutions. The U.S. Department of Education has a list of these higher education agencies that maintain lists of the degree-granting institutions in their state.

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; these should be captured as a Technical / Trade School. An exception is technical colleges which do grant degrees; these should be captured as a College / University structure.  

It is important to note that we are not collecting university extension locations whose primary mission is to perform community outreach. If a university manages an alternative campus and its title includes the term “Extension”, this point can be collected so long as this campus serves students enrolled in a degree-granting program. If the alternative “Extension” campus only provides education and outreach to the community, this does not meet our definition of a College / University and therefore is not a point we would collect. Check out this Q&A entry for more on how to handle University extensions.

Where can I find authoritative lists of College / University structures?
An institution’s individual website is the best place to find authoritative information on a College / University.  Therefore,
it is highly recommended that users confirm the information on these lists by locating the website for each College / University listed.

The closest thing to a national list may be the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES maintains a database of primary, secondary, and higher education (aka, college) institutions. Users can search the NCES database for colleges.

Each state also has a higher education agency that may include a list of colleges and universities within their state.  

Check out our Authoritative Sources List for more on the types of sources that are acceptable.

Where do I place a College / University structure point?
In general, each college and/or university campus should be represented by a single structure point placed on the administrative building for that institution. If one does not have firsthand knowledge of the location of the administration building, it can usually be found on the school's campus map. If the location of the administration building cannot be determined, then place the structure point on a building at the center of the campus.A university campus may contain several colleges or schools (i.e., 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 not be added as separate points. One point would represent the university or college. 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 Denver, and the Community College of Denver) – in this case each institution should be represented by a separate point. Some colleges, especially in an urban environment, may have multiple campuses or widely dispersed buildings. 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 use your best judgment as to whether it is important enough to be considered a campus and therefore justify a separate structure point. Medical schools that are co-located with hospitals should be represented by a separate College / University structure point. The associated hospital would be represented as a separate Hospital structure point.

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.

  • INDICATORS: houses a fire engine.

INCLUDES: Fire stations with only fire response equipment or 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 Google Street View™ 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.