Community Safety

Community/Public Safety

All communities have alert systems which provide phone calls, texts, and/or email when there is a public emergency. The option to sign up for emergency and non-emergency alerts is usually on the municipality’s website. More information is available on the Massachusetts state website.


Although state law does not require a municipality have a police force, all do. Increasingly, small towns are creating shared police departments (e.g., Hardwick and New Braintree). MA State Police provide back-up, and in some instances in smaller communities with part-time police departments, may be the first responder. Many police departments participate in or offer programs such as National Night Out, Narcan administration training, Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) classes, Handle with Care child trauma notification, co-response (with trained mental health crisis counselors), crisis intervention training or crisis response hubs, and other community outreach safety initiatives. With increased focus, at the community, state, and federal level, police departments are modernizing their hiring, training, reporting, and accountability. 


Many fire departments have incorporated ambulance services, aka Emergency Medical Services (EMS) into their department. Small communities may have an all-volunteer fire department while larger ones have a paid full time department.  Many have paid staff augmented with volunteers. There are some shared or regional fire and/or EMS services. Private ambulance services provide primary or back-up services to many municipalities. Certified care levels vary, from basic EMT to Paramedic.

Mutual Aid 

Most communities have mutual aid agreements among the police, fire, highway/public works departments which allow them to help surrounding communities.

Disaster Assistance 

All communities are required to have a designated Emergency Management Director (EMD) which may be a separate position or assigned to a police chief, fire chief, or some other municipal employee; a comprehensive emergency plan (CEMP), and a hazard mitigation plan. The hazard mitigation plan is a pre-requisite for several public safety and disaster assistance grant programs. RPA’s often assist communities with these plans. There are numerous opportunities for community members to volunteer in disaster preparedness and response in their communities. Regional and state programs include the regional Medical Reserve Corps and MA Responds.

Best Practice Town of Pepperell Emergency Management Agency 

Human Rights Commissions (HRC) and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Initiatives 

There are only a few local HRCs in Massachusetts, one of which is in Fitchburg.  Many Massachusetts communities are addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion though employee training and hiring practices.  Increasingly, task forces and ad-hoc committees are being appointed by mayors and selectboards to engage community members and evaluate the needs, challenges, opportunities for addressing DEIB both internally with local government and schools, as well as the community at large. 

Information on what Human Rights Commissions do and how to start one

Best Practice: Groton DEI Committee