9 Signs You Need New NFIRS Reporting Software
Is it time for your fire department to make a change?
If you are a fire agency within the United States, there’s a good chance you are reporting your data to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). In fact, the NFIRS represents the world’s largest national, annual database of fire incident information, with participating members reporting on an average of 23 million incidents each year.
And while all this information is incredibly helpful in understanding the nation’s fire trends, the burden of data falls on the shoulders of departments. In fact, while state NFIRS offices set the rules on when and how you should report your incident data, the USFA recommends that fire departments submit their data at monthly intervals. This means that recording data and processing it can represent a large amount of time and energy for your agency.
Working with an efficient, easy-to-use software tool can make all the difference in how easy or painful your incident reporting can be. While there are numerous vendors on the market today offering products specifically aimed at working with fire data, here are several signs that it may be time to switch to a new, more efficient option.
1. You are doing double data entry for EMS calls.
When you’ve completed your data entry requirements for NFIRS, you most likely then turn your attention to other regulatory agencies, like NEMSIS, who are looking for similar data for their records and requirements. If your incident reporting tool does not “talk” with your ePCR software, you’re losing countless hours retracing your steps and reentering data in a separate system. Kill two birds with one stone by using software tools that seamlessly integrate and share data between fire and EMS calls.
2. No one wants to use it.
The reality is that incident reporting is a necessary part of agency operations, and team participation is critical. If your team is struggling with timely and accurate data entry, you may need to take a look at new tools that make reporting easier. Easier use means better data input, and a more accurate picture of your operations.
3. You consistently run into unexpected costs.
Unfortunately, software tools often bring with them hidden costs that you only encounter down the road, once you’ve already invested substantial time and training. Maybe there was some hidden fine print regarding features not included in your original purchase price, or perhaps your vendor charges you for additional users, software upgrades, reporting, or live support. These costs can add up and negatively impact not only your budget but the functionality of the tool itself.
4. You don’t trust your numbers.
So you’re pulling your numbers on a regular basis. But if your gut is telling you that the numbers don’t seem right, or – more importantly – the information you’re getting is not truly helpful in showing your successes or areas for improvement, it’s time for a better solution. Besides meeting reporting requirements, accurate and timely incident reporting can help you make immediate, real-world operational improvements that can increase safety and efficiency for your team and community.
5. You’re missing the historical perspective.
If your current reporting practices require cumbersome efforts to create a historical view of your operations, your agency could be missing out. For example, many grant applications require three- to five-years’ worth of data to apply; the ability to easily pull this information makes your application more complete and competitive. Additionally, viewing your operations over longer periods of time can show trends that are easily shared with the public, your crews, and your governing body, showing the impact your department is making on the community.
6. Your vendor doesn’t have a clue.
While there are several software tools marketed specifically for helping fire agencies gather incident data, it may become quickly apparent that your software vendor does not truly understand the needs and challenges your department faces. For example, it’s especially important that your incident software is “future-proofed,” since new requirements are often introduced, not only from NFIRS but from other agencies like NEMSIS. It’s helpful to work with a vendor who understands the ever-changing nature of reporting standards and works with you to always stay compliant.
7. Your software is on premise.
Whether you are familiar with the ins and outs of SaaS solutions – commonly called “the Cloud” – there are, today, several practical benefits of SaaS tools for first responders, including making your incident reporting software more secure and affordable. Not only can you house your software tool via the Cloud – meaning no physical hardware needed – you can also benefit from easier vendor updates and repairs, as well as reducing the risk of damage from emergencies at your own facility, like floods, fire, or theft.
8. Your submissions are frequently rejected.
The process of submitting fire incident data to your state can be a headache, but the last thing you want to happen is the rejection of records. If your NFIRS software makes it difficult to ensure every NFIRS-required field is filled out accurately, you are risking the success of your submission, meaning more work for you down the line. Software that offers features like as progressive validation – meaning you can’t move onto the next step without all fields completed – helps ensure your work is done correctly, the first time.
9. Your software has a steep learning curve.
If your reporting tool is less-than-intuitive, it undoubtedly takes a substantial amount of time to train new crew members on data entry. If you face the added challenges of higher turnover or depend on a volunteer crew that changes regularly, you may find yourself in a never-ending cycle of software training, not to mention correcting mistakes and retraining. Easier-to-use software reduces the learning curve for team members and makes training quicker and more effective.
If any of these signs sound like your current headaches with your software tools, it may be time to check out a new NFIRS reporting tool. For more tips on researching and finding a better option, download the free NFIRS Reporting Software: Fire Department Buyer’s Guide now.