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Harnessing the power of fire service data to improve the safety of firefighters
and the communities they serve.

Fire service data and its challenges

Local fire service agencies collect and manage a tremendous amount of data. The data is often captured and stored in a variety of systems, with significant differences in how it is formatted. Traditionally, fire departments have only externally shared data related to their emergency responses even though these activities often only account for a portion of their activities.

Ever-increasing calls for fiscal responsibility and organizational accountability require fire departments to use this data to justify their existing and requested resources and deployment strategies.

 

Types of fire service data

Fire service data is any type of data that fire departments or other fire agencies collect to document or manage their various activities. This project is focused on data related to incident responses, emergency scene operations, and health and wellness exposures as well as fire prevention and community risk reduction activities. Long-term, the system will look to collect data on other activities such as training and investigations.

Incident

Fire departments have documented the emergency incidents they have respond to for generations. This is the most common type of data that fire departments collect. In the US most departments collect incident data in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) 5 format.

CRR

Fire departments and other affiliated agencies have long documented fire prevention, public education, and other more modern Community Risk Reduction (CRR) activities. However, there is little consistency in the way these data are formatted. NFPA has begun a project to standardize how data are collected.

Wildland fire

Many federal agencies, tribal nations, state agencies, local fire departments, and private contractors respond to wildfires across the US. Standardizing the data that are collected and shared is vital to facilitate interagency responses. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the Integrated Reporting of Wildland-Fire Information (IRWIN) are two efforts to standardize wildland fire data.

Operations

Increasingly more fire departments are beginning to document and analyze data about their operational effectiveness through the use of emergency scene timestamps. The National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS) has set the standard on what types of operational data should be documented and in what format.

Health & wellness

When firefighters are exposed to carcinogens, pathogens, or other health and wellness hazards there is increasing interest in documenting these exposures. There are several on-going research projects to document, measure and evaluate firefighter exposures using tools like the NFORS exposure app or the Personal Exposure Reporting (PER) tool

Other

Fire departments collect and utilize data on many other types of activities. In the long-term, the system will be capable of handling new and emerging data sets as the fire service continues to evolve its mission.

The Fire Data Problem

Fire departments across the country have consistently struggled with the collection, analysis, and utilization of data. When NFPA launched this project we set out to understand more about the fire data problem. Here is what we learned:

“There does not appear to be one overarching fire data problem, nor does there appear to be one overarching one-size-fits-all fire data solution. Depending on the size of the agency, their current capabilities and need, fire departments seem to have different fire data problems. Challenges that one department may be struggling with are likely issues recently solved by another department or other data domains outside of the fire service. Identifying, leveraging, and sharing the best practices across the fire service and beyond can likely have significant benefits for the wider fire service.”

NFDS survey findings

While the specific fire data problems differ there are some themes that have emerged across the fire service that we have begun to tackle.

Inconsistent data silos

The project will help to overcome the data silos found across the fire service by consolidating data from any system and format currently used by local fire departments that local agencies are willing to share.

Delayed data access

The project will allow departments to submit data regularly, allowing for real-time, on-demand analysis.

Underutilized data

The framework will allow the fire service to leverage new and emerging methods to improve data utilization and analysis.