The Influence of Extreme Heat on Police and Fire Department Services in 23 U.S. Cities

Augusta Williams. Larissa McDonogh‐Wong, and John D. Spengler
Posted on: 3/14/2021 - Updated on: 3/16/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



Recent research suggests that extreme heat affects the demand for emergency services, including police and fire department incidents. Yet there is limited understanding of impacts across U.S. cities, with varying population sizes, and between different climates. This study sought to examine the daily utilization of police and fire department services, during hot days in 23 U.S. cities representing six climate zones using relative risk (RR) and time-series analyses of daily police and fire department incidents. The warm season analyses utilized three temperature metrics: daily maximum temperature (TMAX), daily maximum heat index (HIMAX), and the preceding daily minimum temperature (TMIN). Across these cities, the RR of police department incidents on days where TMAX was at or above the 95th percentile significantly increased within a range from 3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.3%, 6.3%) to 57% (95% CI: 24.5%, 89.7%), compared with a nonhot day. At the same temperature thresholds, the RR of fire department dispatches increased from 6% (95% CI: 3.0%, 8.6%) to 18% (95% CI: 15.2%, 21.6%). These results remained consistent across temperature metrics and consecutive days of extreme heat. The estimated effects of daily maximum temperature, daily maximum heat index, and daily minimum temperature were nonlinear for police and fire department incidents across all cities. These findings inform climate change adaptation strategies, preparing budgets and personnel for emergency agencies to ensure resilience as periods of extreme heat increase in frequency, severity, and duration.