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Data Quality

What is as true in a fire department as in a Fortune 500 corporation? Data drives decision-making.

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


Notice of enforcement: NFIRS 2015 specification cycle

To improve data quality and consistency, we are enforcing several 2015 specification cycle rules previously not enforced by the NFIRS validation process.

Learn about 2015 specification cycle enforcement


Review and Assessment of Data Quality in the National Fire Incident Reporting System

This report provides an assessment of NFIRS data quality, both at the state and data element levels, and highlights data quality checks and mechanisms available within the system.

Download the report

National Fire Data Center internal data quality checks

The National Fire Data Center (NFDC) works to identify NFIRS data errors and to assist states and fire departments in fixing them.

Accurate fire incident reports are important. They can impact your department just as much as the entire United States. When incidents are documented for 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 codes for unknown, none or other.

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 errors and assist states and fire departments in resolving them. Below are 3 identified trends in the data, along with a brief discussion of each.

Coding guidelines to improve data quality

Formatting your incident numbers

Options for coding dates into your NFIRS incident numbers and why your incident numbers should be exclusively numeric.

Understanding the 20-minute response warning message

The purpose of the 20-minute response time warning message is to make sure that the response time is legitimate and not a data entry error.

Why getting the incident type right matters

This Incident Type field is the foundation for completing your incident report. It provides an accurate picture of the types of incidents your fire department responds to.