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Why Getting the Incident Type Right Matters

Posted: Dec. 17, 2020

2 min read
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This NFIRSGram explains the importance of correctly coding the Incident Type field in NFIRS. This field is the foundation for completing your incident report and providing an accurate picture of the types of incidents your fire department responds to.

You responded to an incident. Now that you have returned to the station, your thoughts turn toward filling out the incident report. It all starts with understanding the Incident Type.

What is Incident Type?

The Incident Type is the actual situation found upon arrival to the scene. (See NFIRS 5.0 Complete Reference Guide PDF 5.2 MB for more information on the Incident Type field).

What was found upon arrival to the scene is often quite different from the reason for dispatch. For this reason, it is important to keep this difference in mind when considering what code to use for Incident Type. The Incident Type sets the stage for not only how the incident is managed on-scene, but also how the incident report is completed and what pieces of information might be required.

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.

Rule #1: Incident Type defines what was found at the incident scene upon arrival of the fire department.

Incident Types are categorized by series (100, 200, 300, etc.), that broadly define the incidents within that category. For example, the 100 series incidents are fires, such as “111” for a building fire.

Although this might sound straightforward, Incident Type determination is a common question. Here are some scenarios to consider:

Scenario 1: Dispatch is to a building fire, but your unit reports to staging.
The Incident Type is still the building fire.
Scenario 2: You arrive to find a vehicle accident (300 series) but the car catches on fire.
The Incident Type changes to a 100 series because of the fire.
Scenario 3: You are dispatched to a vehicle fire and are canceled on the way:
Before the fire department vehicle response: This is not a National Fire Incident Reporting System-reportable incident, and no report should be completed. Note: These types of incidents can be recorded in a spreadsheet at the local level, for example, to be used in local-level reporting.
Before arrival: This is an Incident Type 611 (canceled en route).

Rule #2: Use the lowest code series for determining the Incident Type when more than one Incident Type is found. (See Scenario 2 above.)

Why does getting the Incident Type right matter?

The Incident Type not only determines what information you need to collect and enter into your incident report, but over time (e.g., weeks, months, years), it can show you what types of incidents your department (and resources) respond to. This information is a critical component in data-driven decision-making and will enable a better understanding of your department’s overall operation.

The Incident Type data supports the "fighting fires with facts" concept by providing an accurate picture of the types of incidents responded to in your area. Manpower, equipment, apparatus and training programs (to name only a few) can then be specifically geared toward your department's needs.


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