I am working on a project using Network Analyst to determine official emergency response zones for fire departments. The shape of each zone will be determined by the network (at least 1 department must arrive at the destination within 4 minutes of drive time), and each zone will be attributed with station numbers in order of most accessible resources.

For example, one zone might be attributed with 3, 2, 5, which means Station 3 is the first to respond to that zone, and if they need more resources (or 3 isn't available), Station 2 is dispatched, and the same with Station 5. The end result will be a map showing each zone, labeled with each station number in order.

I have found good information on NFPA standards, which are standards that firefighters follow in the United States, such as:

  • first vehicle must arrive within a travel time of 4 minutes
  • all companies assigned on the first alarm must arrive within an 8 minute travel time

But I haven't found any standards on how to perform the analysis. This ESRI white paper describes how ArcGIS can be useful for fire response, but doesn't go into too much detail.

I have done service area analyses before using Network Analyst, so I am not asking for steps to perform this. What I need to know though, is are there any standard ways, or common practices, that emergency response network analyses are done? Or is this typically handled using whatever methodology the customer agrees to or suggests?

For example, in this case the customer said that assuming 35 mph in town and 50 mph out of town sounds good, so we'll go with that. Adding global turn delay values makes the analysis more realistic as well. But for these assumptions, I want to be sure that I'm not reinventing the wheel. If there are already standards or best practices for these assumptions (for emergency response), I want to follow them.

  • Other things to consider: how long does it take a vehicle to turn a corner of a given size; how long does it take to safely clear an intersection; what's the chance of having to drive on the median strip / opposite side of the road, how long would that take? Each of these factors will slow your response time by a significant amount, and will be largely different for each city / emergency services sector.
    – nagytech
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 21:39
  • @Geoist Feel free to add elements of your comment as an answer!
    – Tanner
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 1:27

1 Answer 1


Mike Price, a frequent contributor to ESRI's ArcUser magazine has written a number of articles discussing this topic. A seach for ["Mike Price" GIS ESRI FIRE] will give you quite a bit of bedside reading.

This article is the top hit for the above Google search... Section two discusses methods and decisions involved for developing a "Standards of Cover" layer.

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