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NFPA's National Fire Data Survey Builds the Case for Improving Data

Print Article Contributed by FSM Staff

QUINCY, MA -- The National Fire Data Survey, commissioned by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), shows that while the fire service considers the fire data ecosystem to be inconsistent, under-utilized and incomplete.

It also views data as critical, important, and essential for job performance and public safety.

The survey was designed to learn what types of data fire departments collect; what software they use to capture, store and analyze data; and how they use that data for local decision-making. The survey was not intended as a complete census of all fire departments in the United States, it is part of a concerted effort to assess the needs of the fire service. The outreach and reporting were conducted as part of NFPA’s effort to develop a National Fire Data System using an Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

More than 470 fire and public safety members responded to the survey, providing their own take on how the fire service can improve the use of data to make communities and firefighters safer. Respondents were career and volunteer fire chiefs, company officers and firefighters from urban, suburban and rural departments.

Survey findings reveal:

• A growing paradigm shift from creating static fire records that satisfy reporting requirements to developing and actively using dynamic, digital fire data by utilizing a variety of systems. More fire service agencies appear to be using data to manage organizational operations and emergency response deployment strategies.
• Fire departments are increasingly analyzing data for decision-making and discussions with local authorities. Respondents report that access to fire department data can be cumbersome and a source of frustration; they indicate that data source challenges are complex, varied, and are often highly influenced by situations at the local level.
• Collection has grown far beyond incident data. A comprehensive approach to connect all fire activity data is needed to ensure that departments work with data that truly accounts for the full picture of their activities.

There does not appear to be one overarching fire data problem, nor is there one overarching one-size-fits-all fire data solution. Identifying, leveraging, and sharing best practices across the fire service (and beyond) will likely have significant benefits for the wider fire service.

NFPA is part way through the 18-month National Fire Data System project that will identify and develop the groundwork for a horizontally and vertically scalable system to collect data from fire departments. The 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. Working with an Executive Advisory Group and Technical Working Group made up of key stakeholders, NFPA is designing a foundational data framework for the fire service with a focus on incident, operations, and health and wellness data.

NFPA has been recognized as a leader in the collection, analysis and communication of fire loss data for more than 80 years, and has the partnerships, personnel, and proven track record to ensure timely and quality completion of the National Fire Data System project.

 

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