Dr. Matt Hinds-Aldrich, Senior Risk Strategy Lead at AAIS and fire peril subject matter expert, recently joined Tom Louis from First Due to discuss why the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) still matters and why it needs to improve to meets the needs of the 21st century fire service. Watch the entire discussion here:
The two begin their discussion with a bit of a history lesson on what NFIRS was originally created to solve going back to the legendary “America Burning” report and the subsequent federal legislation in the late 1970s. Since the 1970s, the way fire departments collect, share, and utilize data has changed dramatically. This has led some to wonder whether NFIRS has kept up with these changes. Dr. Hinds-Aldrich emphasizes the continued importance of NFIRS and the areas where it needs to improve.
Dr. Hinds-Aldrich notes that NFRIS is both a standardized national data format for collection of response to emergency incidents by fire departments and a national data consolidation process to gather emergency response data from the 30,000 fire departments across the U.S. He notes that these data are used by decision makers in all levels of government to understand not only the scope and scale of the fire problem, but all the other types of incidents that fire departments respond to. But like most other conversations with data at its focal point, the ways fire departments collect and use data is growing exponentially and the question remains if a unified national data approach can keep pace in a rapidly changing and increasingly decentralized data ecosystem.
Mr. Louis and Dr. Hinds-Aldrich discuss how NFIRS has transitioned from data simply collected to answer state and national level questions to increasingly being used by local fire departments and local communities to answer nuanced questions about resource deployment, service delivery effectiveness, and the value that local fire services provide in their community. This has transformed how local departments collect, evaluate, and improve their own data collection efforts to ensure the data are trustworthy and useful.
Fire data is evolving rapidly and so are the systems to collect, consolidate, and use that data. This mirrors how organizations – like AAIS – are evolving in how we synthesize and leverage data from diverse sources to ask questions in ways never previously thought possible. It requires us to take a fresh look at legacy systems and legacy approaches to data collection and data sharing to get back to the original goals – answering relevant and timely questions. This is the takeaway from looking at NFIRS and many other legacy data approaches across most other domains.
Interested to learn more? Reach out to Dr. Matt Hinds-Aldrich here.