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The complete guide to fire reporting systems

Firefighter spraying water on a fire.

How fire department reporting software works and helps keep firefighters and communities safe

When most people think of firefighting, they imagine the big, red truck pulling out of the station and the brave firefighters risking their lives to help others. And while it’s inarguable that this aspect of firefighting is essential, just as essential is the act of fire reporting.

Often happening long after the fire is out, fire reporting includes evidence gathering, report writing and data analysis. These practices help firefighters know what kinds of things cause what kinds of fires, determine how to best approach future fire emergencies, enable the prosecution of arsonists and help legislators enact fire safety regulations.

Fire department reporting software can help in all of these pursuits by standardizing fire reporting and streamlining fire responses. Here’s a look at how the right software can help departments fight fires and keep their firefighters and communities safe.

Fire reporting standards

Created in 1974, the U.S. National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) enables accurate fire reporting by gathering fire data from more than 22,000 fire departments across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Created as part of the sweeping Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act, NFIRS gathers fire data for the purpose of understanding and better responding to fire incidents in the U.S.

Capturing, documenting and reviewing what occurred at fire scenes is the first step toward comprehensive fire reporting. Axon can help. For information about how the Axon ecosystem can improve your fire reporting and compliance with NIBRS, visit our website.

How NFIRS works

Participating fire departments fill out standardized forms after a fire incident. These forms collect data on the nature of the fire, how the fire department responded and the approximate dollar value of damage that occurred.

On a regular basis, the fire department will send all of its forms to the state, which then adds the reports to a single database. That database is then submitted to the National Fire Data Center at the United States Fire Administration (USFA).

Why standardization is important

Since the data collected is standardized, reports from different states and different fire departments can all be analyzed side by side. This makes it possible for the USFA to draw conclusions about the types of fires that occur and how they can be best approached.

NFIRS data also allows agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to track fires that occur involving certain products. If the agency finds that certain makes of automobiles, for example, are more prone to catching fire, it can issue a safety recall, helping to protect the public.

To learn more about NFIRS and national fire reporting, read What is the National Fire Incident Reporting System?

Fire department incident reporting

Filling out incident reports might not be the most exciting aspect of fighting fires, but a proper incident report can contribute to public safety almost as much as a firefighting apparatus. According to Battalion Chief Vince Bettinazzi of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Fire Department, incident reports are read by: “lawyers, media members, insurance adjusters, law enforcement personnel, independent investigators, local and state representatives and even members of the public.”

“The more informative and complete the incident report, the more it can assist and guide your organization into validating decisions,” he says.

Legal investigation support

Prosecuting criminal activity often depends on having access to solid, indisputable facts. An incident report can contribute to a prosecution by providing information regarding the time, place, cause, damages and contributing factors to a fire. Evidence collected as a part of the incident reports is then used by the prosecution to ensure whoever set a fire pays for it – and doesn’t do it again.

Insurance processing

When someone loses their home to a fire, insurance can be a lifeline. A proper incident report will contain information about the extent of the damages and potential causes, which can help them to receive the reimbursement they are owed and rebuild their lives.

Training and safety

Well-written incident reports can be used by educators and trainers to review actual fire incidents. This allows departments to identify trends that could indicate a process or procedure that needs to be adjusted to deliver better outcomes. It also allows firefighters in training to learn from actual fires instead of just theory.

Firefighters aren’t the only ones who benefit. Analyzing fire incident trends can lead to better public safety through education and the creation of fire safety standards.

For more information on incident reports including an incident report template, read What to include in a fire department incident report template.

Fire dispatch software

Fire dispatch software allows departments to coordinate their activities and respond to fires appropriately and quickly. But not all software is created equally. As technology continues to evolve, it’s important to stay on top of developments in the software.

The following are some must-have features for a fire dispatch or fire department reporting software solution.

Advanced computer-aided dispatch

Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) allows fire departments to prioritize emergencies, identify the location of an incident and dispatch the right resources to an incident. Most fire dispatch software comes with CAD, but some CAD solutions are better than others.

Axon Dispatch, for example, offers type-ahead functionality for known data elements, as well as helpful messages to keep operators on track. It also comes with a computer-aided search function that allows departments to easily find prior events based on keywords, dates, times or places. This feature greatly enhances incident reporting.

Real-time situational awareness

The main enemy in an emergency situation is time. It’s critical that commanders have a thorough understanding of an incident as it unfolds.

Fire dispatch software should provide real-time updates from equipment in the field, such as geographic information systems (GIS), body-worn cameras, in-vehicle cameras and drones. This enables commanders to make accurate decisions regarding the response to a fire, including whether or not to escalate. And traffic data can help guide responders to the scene.

Software like Axon Respond can gather all of that data seamlessly into one complete picture. You can see what your firefighters and drones are seeing in real-time, and make critical decisions faster when seconds count.

Unified communications

Maintaining clear communications is critical during a fire response. When seconds count, knowing what information to communicate and how can save lives. That’s why a fire dispatch software solution needs a unified communications solution that will allow dispatchers to coordinate with responders in real-time via voice or text messages.

Axon Dispatch handles this by automatically adding users assigned to an event to event-specific communications channels. Dispatchers can then send appropriate messages to every unit on a scene without having to coordinate across multiple communication channels. This gets responders the information they need quickly and allows for collaboration on-scene.

To learn more about fire dispatch software, read 5 must-have features of the best fire dispatch software.

Fire reporting with Axon

If you’re looking for best-in-class fire solutions, Axon can help. Axon has the fire solutions to up-level your reporting, evidence gathering and incident management. Axon Dispatch provides a faster, smarter, computer-aided experience that allows dispatchers to communicate and dispense resources effectively. Axon Body 4 BWCs can help capture the scene, improve the investigation process and enhance training and efficiency. Axon Evidence helps gather data into one place where it can be easily analyzed and shared. And Axon Respond delivers real-time operational support by integrating all of your on-scene data into a seamless whole.

To learn more about how Axon can help your department, visit our website.