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Basics: Overview and Transition

Why is USFA developing the NERIS platform?

The need for a new system like NERIS has become increasingly evident as we seek to enhance national fire data and prioritize the safety of firefighters and the public. The existing system, NFIRS, does not fulfill modern data analysis and decision support requirements of fire and emergency responders and is technologically antiquated. NERIS is being designed and developed to address the following challenges and for fire and emergency services:

  1. Enhanced Data Quality: The quality and reliability of data in NFIRS can vary based on the training of data entry personnel and the resources of the reporting agency. NERIS will place a heightened emphasis on consistent and reliable data entries.
  2. Prompt Data Availability: With NFIRS, there is often a significant delay in data extraction, hindering its availability to various stakeholders, including research institutions and other crucial fire and emergency service entities. NERIS intends to provide timelier data access, reducing the lag between reporting and analysis.
  3. Comprehensive Data Coverage: NFIRS does not enjoy universal participation from all fire departments or emergency services agencies, leading to data inconsistencies. NERIS will aim to fill these gaps, ensuring a more representative and comprehensive database.
  4. Efficiency in Resources: NFIRS is resource-intensive, demanding substantial personnel and technological resources. This can strain smaller fire departments. NERIS aims to streamline this process, reducing the burden on these entities.
  5. Maximized Utilization: NFIRS is underutilized by many local agencies due to its structural limitations and data input challenges. This means that many organizations lack the tools necessary for informed decision-making. NERIS will address these shortcomings, offering more effective data analysis tools.

What is the vision for NERIS?

NERIS will be the leading resource for comprehensive information and advanced analysis on fire-related issues in the United States. It will support state, local, territorial, and tribal fire services by offering information that helps them effectively, efficiently, and safely address fire problems. By collecting, combining, and analyzing data, the NERIS platform will offer up-to-date information on fire and emergency situations across the U.S. It will also provide timely insights into significant or noteworthy events related to fires, hostile actions, or disasters. NERIS is Enabling Effective Emergency Response.

What is the timeline for the rollout of the new system?

NERIS Version 1.0 will launch in Fall 2024. It will include an extensive rollout campaign for onboarding fire departments. Updated versions of NERIS will be released periodically in 2025 and beyond based on user feedback and new technology developments.

What will happen with the existing NFIRS system and historical data?

The new NERIS platform will replace the legacy data system known as the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). The legacy NFIRS will remain operational throughout the transition process, so all fire and emergency services departments should continue to use the current NFIRS data system and maintain status quo until migrated to the new platform.

After NERIS is fully developed and available for use by fire departments nationwide, USFA’s legacy NFIRS system will be decommissioned. In the decommissioning process, historical NFIRS data will be archived in a data library that will be made publicly available. Note: Historical NFIRS data is openly available today for the years 1982 through 2021 for use by researchers and data analysts.

How will this new NERIS platform improve measurable outcomes from incidents?

NERIS will offer several significant improvements over its predecessor, NFIRS (National Fire Incident Reporting System), in terms of enhancing measurable outcomes from incidents. These include:

  1. Streamlined & Enhanced Incident Data Model and Schemas: NERIS will be developed based on a new, streamlined incident data schemas that prioritize and standardize data captured by local fire departments, and aligns with data interoperability and exchange standards.
  2. Integration: NERIS is being developed to allow for relevant data to come from existing 3rd party systems - such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD), records management systems (RMS), and GIS - through data services via application programming interfaces (APIs) from the most authoritative source. This approach is intended to minimize duplicative data entry and reduce data entry burdens on first responders. Moreover, NERIS will integrate the best available, publicly available data to derive valuable insights.
  3. Faster Analysis: NERIS will offer more current information and actionable analytic products, enabling emergency services to better understand incident trends in their community, their department’s capabilities, needs, and make data-informed decisions on resource allocation and planning.
  4. Comprehensive Scope: Instead of primarily focusing on detailed fire-related incidents like NFIRS, NERIS will encompass all hazards, offering a holistic view of future emergency needs and resource allocation.
  5. Advanced Analytics: NERIS’s sophisticated data analysis tools will help emergency services identify trends, risk factors, and resource requirements in the future, facilitating more informed decision-making and improved outcomes.
  6. User-Friendly Interface: Designed with first responders in mind, NERIS will offer an intuitive experience, streamlining data input, and information retrieval processes.
  7. Timely Insights: NERIS will ensure up-to-date information on significant events, fostering quicker and more precise responses, and minimizing the potential impact of future incidents.
  8. Efficient Resource Allocation: Applying more accurate data, NERIS will enable leaders to optimize resource deployment, ensuring that the right assistance is available and reaches the right places promptly.
  9. Mitigating Emerging Risks: NERIS will also help identify rising threats from new technologies and highlight successful mitigation strategies, ensuring that emergency services stay ahead of evolving challenges.

By improving these various facets of emergency response, NERIS can contribute to more effective, efficient, and safer outcomes.

What sets the new technology of NERIS apart from previous platforms like NFIRS?

The key difference is that NERIS employs modern technology to provide a more flexible, responsive, scalable, and secure architecture. Unlike NFIRS, which was initially designed in 1976, NERIS is built to evolve and improve over time and keep pace with technology innovation. This will make it easier to use and offer enhanced data security and updated features as they become available. Additionally, the user interface is designed to be more efficient and effective, specifically catering to the needs of firefighters and emergency responders.

How will NERIS keep its datasets up-to-date and aligned with the changing needs of fire departments and EMS, considering NFIRS has had limited updates in an almost 50-year history?

To keep NERIS datasets current and adaptable, we are focusing on system agility. This includes modular architecture and API integrations that allow for quick updates. Additionally, we are implementing a strong feedback mechanism to capture user needs, ensuring that the system remains responsive to the changing dynamics of fire departments and EMS services.

What actions can departments take today to prepare for the launch of NERIS?

First, stay informed. Regular updates will be provided via newsletter, website, webinars, and other public events. While awaiting the rollout of NERIS, maintain your existing incident data reporting protocols via NFIRS.

If your department is considering purchasing a new CAD or RMS system, make certain it provides interoperable data services as APIs to allow for seamless integration with NERIS.

Have a question or need more information?

Please email the NERIS Information Desk.