Report: "NFIRS Incident Types: Why aren’t they telling a clearer story?" (PDF, 1 MB)
Authors: Karyl Kinsey, Austin Fire Department and Marty Ahrens, NFPA
Issued: January 2016

This study evaluated the reliability or consistency of fire department coding of the three-digit incident type field in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the source of detailed information about fires and fire department responses in most of NFPA’s studies. The recommendations for improving NFIRS are intended as a springboard for discussion. Several findings are relevant to other data collection efforts.

Key findings

  • Long code lists make it hard to find the best code choice.
  • Many incident type codes are rarely used.
  • Critical language from the full coding manual (NFIRS Complete Reference Guide) is sometimes missing from the drop-down menus.
  • Code groupings and definitions often do not match the way people think and talk
  • Many incident types were designed to capture multiple attributes, such as cause of false alarm and type of device or system involved. These incident types were particularly challenging.