This NFIRSGram explains options for coding dates into your National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) incident numbers and why the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends that incident numbers be exclusively numeric.
NFIRS will accept any value in the Incident Number field as long as it is seven characters or less in length. This means that incident numbers can have dashes or hyphens, alpha characters and numbers. However, the USFA recommends that your incident numbers be exclusively numeric.
Many fire departments include some type of date code in their incident numbers to help them identify the date upon which the incident occurred. This is possible, but if you are a department that runs more than 1,000 calls a year, then you limited on how much of the date you can include in your incident number.
Important points for formatting incident numbers
- Limit incident numbers to seven characters.
- Use only numbers in your incident numbers.
- Dashes or capital letters use up some of your seven characters, so limit their use.
- Incident numbers longer than seven characters are truncated by the system.
- Incident numbers must be unique for each incident your department reports on a given day.
- Using capital and lower case letters in the incident number can cause duplicate incidents in local databases (e.g., 100000a and 100000A are duplicates in databases with noncase-sensitive database collation sequences), and they should be avoided.
- Special characters, such as back slashes and caret symbols, can cause problems with importing or exporting data.
Options for formatting your incident numbers
Option 1 Maximum number of incidents per year: 999
If you run less than 1,000 calls a year, then you can include up to four digits of a date in the incident number, such as month and day, then the incident number (e.g.,
0101001). This would reflect incident number 1 that occurred on Jan. 1. If another incident occurs on the same day, then the next sequential incident number is used (e.g.,
0101003). If the fourth incident of the year occurred on Jan. 2, you would use
Option 2 Maximum number of incidents per day: 999
Use the month and day code to capture all calls that occur on that day, such as
0102002. Each day you would start a new date code, but you would start over at incident number 1.
Option 3 Maximum number of incidents per year: 999
Use the year in your identifier, such as
Option 4 Maximum number of incidents per year: 99,999
Use a two-digit year identifier, such as
Option 5 Maximum number of incidents per year: 9,999,999
Use a straight sequential incident number, such as
Incident numbers generated by your computer-aided design
Often your computer-aided design (CAD) software will auto-populate your incident number in your NFIRS software application. These CAD-generated numbers are typically 10 digits in length, or even longer. When this occurs, you must truncate the incident number in your NFIRS software to no more than seven characters.
If an incident number is longer than seven characters in length, any character after the first seven is truncated/deleted when the incident is imported into the system. So, if you submit an incident file with the following incident numbers:
that all occur on the same day, the system will truncate those numbers to:
Your department will have one incident in the system for that day,
1601010, instead of showing five incidents. This will be the incident data associated with the incident
1601010010. Since the import process treats each incident with the same key information as an identical incident, it will overwrite each incident as it imports the incidents with the truncated incident numbers.
Have a question about formatting incident numbers?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.