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Understanding the 20-Minute Response Warning Message

Posted: Dec. 17, 2020

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This NFIRSGram explains the 20-minute response time warning message in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

The 20-minute response time warning sometimes confuses fire department personnel when they are reviewing the error report for their NFIRS incident submission. A common misconception is that this warning message prevents fire departments from saving their incident in NFIRS: it doesn’t.

Users who receive this message can save the incident in the national database. The purpose of the warning message is to make sure that the response time is legitimate and not a data entry error.

Important points about response time standards

  • Career departments have a response time standard of 4 minutes for the arrival of a unit with first responder or higher-level capability on Emergency Medical Services calls.
  • Career departments have a response time standard of 4 minutes or less for the arrival of the first-arriving engine company at a fire suppression incident.
  • Career departments also have a response time standard of 8 minutes or less for the full deployment at a first-alarm fire suppression incident.
  • Volunteer departments have variable response time standards based upon several factors, such as their local staffing levels, their demand zone, and the number of miles they need to travel to get to the scene of the incident.

For more information about NFIRS, 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