NFIRSGram: Report remarks—telling the story

This NFIRSGram explains the value of using the Remarks field and how to enter quality content that benefits your fire department.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Remarks or narrative field in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) report is the only place the reporting department can document, in its own words, what events might have led up to, transpired during, or occurred after the incident.

Although this field is not required, it allows the reporting department to “paint a picture” of the incident by providing further details that can be beneficial for training and incident investigations.

Important points for documenting remarks

  • Explain the who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • Describe the incident conditions upon arrival, during response, and the results.
  • Detail any damage to neighboring structures and/or property that are not captured on an exposure report.
  • Note any special or unusual conditions encountered on the incident.
  • Use plain language and avoid acronyms.
  • Tell the story! The narrative is an extension of the incident.

What to include in the Remarks field

Departments can use the Remarks field to describe what happened, including fire department operations, conditions encountered, or other details about the incident. This information is in addition to the codes used throughout the NFIRS report. It is important to note that the Remarks field should not be used in place of a properly coded report.

Your Remarks narrative should also match what you documented in the rest of the report. For example, if you indicate that a fire started in a trashcan inside a home, ensure that the Area of Fire Origin in Section D of the Fire Module is not listed as “unknown.”

The Remarks field is an extension of the incident, so include what actions your department performed on the incident and the effect they had on incident stabilization. This is also the area to record other specific details important to the incident that are not recorded in other fields of the report.

Tips for telling the story

  • Answer the following questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how?
  • Write your remarks in plain language.
  • Avoid the use of acronyms and technical terminology so that a non-firefighter or someone who was not on-scene can read your report and understand what happened at the incident.
  • Be clear, concise, and “paint the picture!”

Recommended reading

Refer to previous NFIRSGrams for recommended reporting formats related to incident-specific scenarios, such as incidents involving hover boards or e-cigarettes.

Adding Computer Aided Dispatch comments

Depending on your software, the Remarks field can be automatically filled in with Computer Aided Dispatch comments. It is important to check the Remarks field to ensure that the appropriate information is recorded and edited correctly.

Remarks as legal documentation

Documentation contained within the Remarks field can serve as a legal document, aiding investigators months or even years later. If asked about the number of cars in the garage, or if people were standing around when you arrived, could you provide an answer?

Printing the Remarks section

The Forms Based Incident Report includes only the first page of the Remarks section. If printing a report containing a long Remarks section, the user should copy the Remarks text to a word processing application to print separately.

Have questions about how to improve the quality of your Remarks content? Please contact the NFIRS Support Center: Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET, at 888-382-3827 or by email at fema-nfirshelp@fema.dhs.gov.