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CAD Systems and Autopopulated Fields

This NFIRSGram explains how to ensure that your Computer-Assisted/Aided Dispatch (CAD) system is populating the correct data to the Incident Time and Incident Remarks/Narrative fields in NFIRS.

CAD systems have changed the way 911 dispatch centers receive, process and route emergency calls. As emergency response units are dispatched to provide a service, the same information collected in the CAD system by a 911 dispatcher can be shared with responding units. This real-time information sharing ensures that the emergency responders receive the most up-to-date information available.

Once the incident is over, fire department record management systems (RMSs) can receive data automatically from the CAD system, with many populating fields for the purposes of fire incident reporting. The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) 5.0 is the standard by which the fire incident RMS collects and stores these data.

Increased integration between CAD and NFIRS-based RMSs has exposed some trends in the data that can have a significant impact on the accuracy and quality of the data collected. Two NFIRS data elements impacted by the integration of CAD and RMSs are Incident Times and Incident Remarks/Narratives.

Important points

  • Always check your NFIRS report for automatically populated fields, and edit as needed.
  • Confirm that the data in all fields are correct and appropriate for your incident.
  • Work with your RMS and CAD vendors to ensure fields are linked and populated correctly.
  • If fields are automatically populated within an optional NFIRS module, then all required fields for that module must be completed.
  • Remember, just because CAD populates fields in your NFIRS report does not mean that you cannot edit or remove that data.
  • Carefully review the log files returned to you after submitting an import to the National Database.

Incident times (section E1 in the Basic Module)

Only some of the incident times captured by a CAD system have NFIRS counterparts, for example, the Basic Module's Alarm, Arrival, Controlled and Last Unit Cleared times. These times are crucial in determining travel times, response times and duration times for various incidents and can be used to analyze the incident response and manpower impacts to a community.


CAD systems often use the time of 911 notification as the Alarm Time when integrating with an RMS that supports NFIRS. This results in a significant increase in overall incident time. For NFIRS reporting purposes, the Alarm Time is the “actual month, day, year, and time of day when the alarm was received by the fire department.”


Work with your CAD system administrator and NFIRS RMS vendor to ensure that the correct time is populating in the correct field.

Don't forget to check the:

  • Times for accuracy prior to signing your NFIRS report (Did it really take 90 minutes to arrive on the scene?).
  • Length of time between the Alarm Time and the Arrival Time.
  • Dates and Times included in the Apparatus and Personnel Modules, if used, as they may also be auto-populated. Also note each Apparatus/Personnel module has three Date/Time fields specific to a piece of apparatus. The Apparatus/Personnel module collects Dispatch, Arrival and Cleared times.

For more information on incident times, see Dates and Times.

Remarks/Narratives (section L in the Basic Module)

Many CAD systems are linking a 911 dispatcher/call-taker “notes” field to the NFIRS Remarks field which results in the inclusion of a significant amount of dispatcher dialog.


Personally Identifiable Information (PII) as well as irrelevant information may be included in the NFIRS Remarks field.


Prior to submission, the NFIRS report should be carefully proofread, including the Remarks section. Information not relevant nor applicable to the incident should be removed.

For more information on the Remarks field, see Report Remarks — Telling the Story.

Have questions about integrating CAD systems with NFIRS-based RMSs?

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