Business Intelligence Software That Helps Fire Departments to “Crunch” NFIRS Data

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

A few months ago, I wrote an article for this space entitled Data Matters for Fire Departments across the U.S. where I discussed the importance of data collection for the present and future success of the fire service, and particularly data transmission to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

Of equal importance was the discussion about the fire service becoming better at retrieving data from NFIRS and turning it into useful information. Information to be used for data-driven decision-making. One of my former mentors, Deputy Chief (Ret.) Jim Graham of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department, was a huge proponent for the use of information whether on a fire ground operation or developing a new training program or addressing budget reductions. One “Graham-ism” I always remember is this:

“We’re drowning in data, but starving for information.”.”—Deputy Chief (Ret.) Jim Graham

NFIRS BI & ISO Reporting Tool

Retrieving and using NFIRS data can seem like trying to get a drink from a fire hose. Wouldn’t it be great to have the right tool to get that data “flow” down to “drinking fountain” size?

Enter the NFIRS Business Intelligence (BI) and ISO Reporting Tool from EPR Fireworks. This analytics tool gives you and your organization the ability to “crunch” NFIRS data more effectively and efficiently.

The tool can also generate NFPA 1710 ISO audit reports straight from the EPR Fireworks NFIRS Data Analysis system.

Some of Its Key Features


The system uses an interactive web dashboard that gives users the ability to quickly and easily create reports, data visualizations, and charts that can be exported to multiple formats.

View data for any incidents from nearly any web-based platform. Users can view incident data in a Chart “drill down” from graph display to the actual incident report and more.

You’re always using current data because the system is updated regularly with dynamic incident data that is fed into tables. The frequency of updates varies based on the type of data.

So, what you wind up with is information that can used to make better, well-informed decisions, i.e., data-driven decision-making. The user can locate key performance indicators, analyze and recognize trends and data anomalies, and present the information in an easy-to-show and insightful graphic chart break down.

The “BI” tool helps the fire department become more data focused, analyzing information quickly and easily, monitoring escalating strategic issues—from damage by incident to false alarm tracking–and turning this BIG data into added value insights.

The data can be used by the fire departments to:

  • Support legislation or grant applications;
  • Create a baseline and set priorities for the departments overall performance;
  • Present interactive incident data at community education programs; and
  • Support recommendations for changes to national fire codes and standards.

Drilling for Data

The “BI” analytics tool has an intuitive user interface that makes data mining a breeze.

Here’s a screenshot from the “BI” analytics tool from EPR Fireworks. In this clip, we can see all 168 fire incidents for a given geographical area. By clicking on any individual marker, the user has access to all the NFIRS data for that location and incident. Additional screens (available once the NFIRS screen is open) can provide the history of emergency events at that location, inspection history, code violation history, etc., for that location and occupancy.

Pictures, not numbers

If a picture is worth more than a thousand words, how much a picture of your NFIRS data be worth at that next budget presentation before the Town Council? With the “BI” analytics tool, you can easily create greater value from the substantial amounts of data collected to meet NFIRS requirements by turning it into information—like eye-catching charts and graphs you’ll have for that Council meeting.

Benchmarking made easy

Using the “BI” tool, you can easily make comparisons between your fire incident information and other relevant fire departments, regionally, state-wide, even nation-wide. Because the data is national!

Here we can see how easy it is to generate your department’s benchmarking activities with greater ease using the “BI” analytics tool. Using the data that fire departments across the country submit to NFIRS, you’ll have the ability to compare your fire department’s performance data to other departments in your region, your state, or across the country. No longer will you have to request benchmarking data from other fire departments, wait for them to collect it, and wait for them to send it to you. Only to find out it wasn’t the data you really need!

You can make well-informed decisions; identify key performance metrics, to help manage manpower and resources more efficiently.

The BI and ISO analytic tool can help you and your fire department to turn the big data into value-added insights to fight fires with facts.

Fire Service Accreditation

EPR FireWorks also give your department the ability to produce many of the reports needed for departments seeking accreditation  as well as “sweet spot” heat maps for incidents and response times!

A heat map is a two-dimensional representation of data in which values are represented by colors. They use color to communicate relationships between data values that would be would be much harder to understand if presented numerically in a spreadsheet.

For example:

Where would YOU place the new station based on this visual (Hint: Look for the yellow arrow?). The blue shading indicates response times of less than 4 minutes; green represents between 4 and 6 minutes; and gold shading represents response times of between 6 and 10 minutes.


Let’s take a look at the data showing incident locations where it took the first-arriving unit more than 10 minutes to reach the location (The number in each balloon icon represents the number of incidents in that location. By clicking on an icon, the user can see a list of all those incidents. And with another mouse click, the can bring up the NFIRS report for any of the incidents listed).


Same map, but now we’ve toggled off the 10-minute red “balloon” icon, and turned on the beige balloon icon to display all the locations where the first unit arrived between 4 and 6 minutes.


Menu of reports auto-generated from the system at a click of a mouse saving hundreds of staff hours!

This is an important addition as many data focused departments are seeking fire service accreditation and spend hundreds of hours digging through their NFIRS data trying to find these data “sweet spots”, i.e., nuggets of information that jumps right at you. And all with just a few mouse clicks using the Analytics system from EPR FireWorks. (Think of it this way: The system would pay for itself in staff time saved alone!).

Departments can set up their own performance benchmarks (like for response times) in the system and the map will change accordingly. Below is a screenshot showing the full menu of Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) Accreditation Reports that come with the system.

All this value from NFIRS files.

Setting up the system is a SNAP.  “We can have a department using the tool with their data in one week’s time,” said Kathi Pletzke, Director of North American Operation for EPR FireWorks.

According to Pletzke, the BI and ISO Reporting Tool can produce 26 reports needed for CFAI Accreditation and ISO auditing, including the NFPA 1710 response report, all with a simple mouse click.  “The savings in staff time, not to mention the hassle of trying to extract the data from a department’s RMS [Records Management System] can more than pays for the software,” said Pletzke. “We base our pricing on the number of incidents that a fire department responses to annually.

Pletzke said that for a fire department responding to 5,000 incidents a year, the annual cost of a subscription for the department would be $2,490 USD.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].