Skip to main content

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock () or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Data Quality

Posted: Dec. 17, 2020

Updated: Oct. 25, 2023

  • 3 min read
  • Share on:

This NFIRSGram highlights internal data quality checks performed by the National Fire Data Center (NFDC) to identify data errors and to assist states and fire departments in fixing them.

Important points

Accurate data is essential for organizational decision-making.

Data entry errors are common and should be fixed when identified.

Regular data quality checks increase information accuracy and ensure that the best overall data is recorded and used.

What is as true in a fire department as in a Fortune 500 corporation?

Data drives decision-making.

For the fire service, data is reported in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) for all their emergency responses. It is critical to make sure the data reported is complete and accurate because this information is used at all levels — from local budget development to the identification of national preparedness initiatives.

Accurate fire incident reports are of utmost importance and can impact your department’s data reporting and analyses just as much as they can for the entire United States. When incidents are documented in the NFIRS, there is the potential for data entry errors — mistakes that can alter the intended meaning of the information. Several mistakes across a region may not be significant, but many mistakes in the same region — or worse, across the entire country — can dramatically affect the meaning of the data. The same result occurs when data is generalized, such as the overuse of the unknown, none or other codes.

Since the goal is to provide the best data possible, the NFDC developed a series of internal data quality reports to identify some of these data entry errors and assist the states and fire departments in resolving them. Below are 3 identified data entry errors, along with a brief discussion of each.

Data Error: Incorrectly reported dollar loss values

Section G2 of the NFIRS Basic Module collects information about the estimated dollar losses and values of property and contents. Total dollar loss is the sum of the property and content losses. This is a crucial component of data collection since it is an indicator of fire impact within the U.S. It is important to note that these are only estimations, and the best estimate provided by the fire department is acceptable. Each field allows a reported dollar value up to $999,999,999.

What the NFDC looks for: Every incident with a total dollar loss value greater than $10,000,000 and negative dollar loss values.

Issues identified: Extremely high reported dollar loss values as well as negative dollar loss values.

How to resolve: Data should be entered with care and checked to ensure accuracy. For more information on reporting fire loss, see the NFIRSGRAM: Calculating Fire Loss on NFIRS Forms.

Data Error: Incorrect building stories

Section I3 of the NFIRS Structure Fire Module looks at building height (i.e., the number of stories at or above grade and below grade). This data element is required within the Structure Fire Module. Building height and depth below grade are useful for pre-fire planning and for determining life safety hazard values; the difficulty level for people to escape the building.

What the NFDC looks for: Stories greater than or equal to 30 above grade and greater than or equal to 5 below grade.

Issues identified: Unusually high values for both above grade and below grade stories.

How to resolve: Data should be entered with care and checked to ensure accuracy.

Data Error: Civilian and fire service casualty module mismatch

When a civilian is injured or killed because of a fire, whether it is during activities of fire control, attempting rescue, or escaping from the dangers of the fire, it is important to document the information as a civilian casualty in both Section H1 of the NFIRS Basic Module and the NFIRS Civilian Fire Casualty Module. Additionally, it is important to document any fire service members who are injured or killed during incident responses, when they are on duty at the station or during training. This information is recorded as a fire service casualty in Section H1 of the NFIRS Basic Module and the NFIRS Fire Service Casualty Module.

What the NFDC looks for: Every incident with reported casualties in Section H1 of the Basic Module should have a corresponding casualty module (Civilian Fire Casualty or Fire Service Casualty) with the correct Severity (Section H on the Civilian Fire Casualty Module; Section G3 on the Fire Service Casualty Module).

Issues identified: The number of casualty modules do not match the number of casualties reported in the Basic Module. Severity on the casualty modules must also match the information reported on the Basic Module.

How to resolve: Ensure each casualty reported on the Basic Module has an equivalent casualty module for that incident. If the casualty is not a death, it should be reported as an injury in the Basic Module and the severity on the casualty module must match and not show a death. Civilian casualties should only be reported if the incident is a fire (Incident Type codes in the 100 series). For more information about documenting casualties in NFIRS, see the NFIRSGram Documenting casualties on an NFIRS report.