According to an NFPA survey on data, the fire service recognizes the value of data but is not satisfied with the way that data is handled today. Feedback from fire chiefs, officers, administrators, firefighters, analysts, fire marshals, inspectors and investigators shows that current fire data systems store large amounts of data but the quality, accuracy, and access to useful data is limited.
NFPA was awarded an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) last August to develop a new national fire data system that will help improve emergency response and community risk reduction activities in the U.S. To gauge data capabilities, needs and aspirations, NFPA commissioned a survey earlier this year.
These days, fire departments are looking to paint a full picture of their duties, responsibilities and the information they need to do their job successfully. The survey revealed that:
• organizations are collecting and maintaining data related to response, tactics, operations, patient care, fire inspection, training, public education, building occupancies, and other relevant community information;
• there is very little fire service data uniformity or universal record-keeping;
• collection has surpassed the capabilities of the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS);
• and more fire departments are analyzing data for local decision-making.
The survey focused on the collection of data, analytics and information-sharing, and included:
• questions about CAD systems, records management systems, and NFIRS;
• a section on fire department conversion of numbers into knowledge and benchmarking;
• and an area about internal and external stakeholder collaboration.
The bottom line of the survey is that fire data is rapidly changing. There is not one overall problem or solution. Fire departments are moving away from simply creating records, for the sake of record-keeping. They are using a host of digital resources to effectively manage fire emergencies, organizational processes, and fire mitigation. Increasingly, the fire service is capturing, analyzing and sharing data during budgeting, contract negotiations, community outreach, and procurement discussions with local and national authorities.
The NFPA data survey is an important yardstick for the 18-month National Fire Data System project. Information gleaned via the survey will help develop the groundwork for a horizontally and vertically scalable system to collect data from fire departments. NFPA’s goal is to develop, build and test an infrastructure that will ingest, store and export data that conforms to existing and emerging industry data standards. An Executive Advisory Group and Technical Working Group made up of key stakeholders is working with NFPA to design a data framework for the fire service with a focus on incident, operations, and health and wellness data.