From Legacy Systems to Innovation, the Promise of NERIS

A New Era for Fire Incident Reporting

The fire service community is on the cusp of a momentous shift.

The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), a legacy system with a long-standing pillar of data collection, will be replaced by the cutting-edge National Emergency Response Information System (NERIS).

This isn’t just an upgrade; it’s an innovation in how fire departments capture, manage, and utilize data. Through this shift, fire chiefs, essential to emergency response leadership, now face a monumental decision-making process.

NERIS offers fire chiefs three distinct implementation options, empowering them to choose the best option for their needs. Another advantage includes using free NERIS data capture apps, which enable a cost-effective alternative to eliminate the necessity for an expensive Records Management System (RMS).

This article delves into the timeline, features, and implications of this seismic shift. It urges fire departments to seize the opportunities presented by NERIS to modernize their data management strategies.

As NFIRS gracefully steps aside, NERIS stands ready to usher in a new era of efficiency and innovation in incident reporting for fire departments nationwide.


Transforming Data for Modern Needs

NFIRS, established in the “mid–1970s”, has served well, but its limitations have become increasingly evident. One of the critical reasons driving the transition from NFIRS to NERIS is the persistent data quality issues within NFIRS. Over time, NFIRS became a complex tapestry of patchwork solutions, making it increasingly challenging to maintain data consistency. Outdated technology, inconsistent data quality, and the inability to answer critical questions plagued the system. The inherent flaws in NFIRS data reached a point where extracting meaningful insights became untenable.

Speakers at the 2023 Metro Fire Chiefs Annual Meeting focused on the future of data management in fire departments. They highlighted the current NFIRS system’s limited ability to answer critical questions due to data quality issues effectively.

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), also emphasized the need for a paradigm shift in how data is perceived and utilized. She encouraged attendees to embrace the “art of the possible” and consider data as more than just text, suggesting photos and videos as potential data points. This call to rethink data aligns perfectly with NERIS’ innovative approach, which prioritizes flexibility and adaptability, freeing departments from the constraints of outdated systems.


Empowering Firefighting Decisions

Traditional data collection methods often leave fire departments struggling with outdated systems and limited insights. Emerging as the solution, NERIS is a system built on modern cloud technology principles designed to address the shortcomings of NFIRS as a centralized hub. Beyond data collection, NERIS will empower fire departments with:

  • Near real-time information to allow for faster and more informed decision-making.
  • Sophisticated analytics enable the identification of trends, resource allocation strategies, and preventive measures.
  • User-friendly data capture apps simplify data entry and reduce the burden on personnel.
  • Cloud-based reporting tools facilitate efficient data analysis and sharing.

Utilizing a centralized information hub for incident reporting empowers fire services in several key ways. First, it provides a comprehensive view of potential threats by aggregating all-hazards information. This allows for a more holistic understanding of possible dangers in the community.

Second, the hub facilitates seamless data exchanges between agencies, fostering collaboration and ensuring everyone can access the latest information. Lastly, this improved information sharing enhances situational awareness during emergencies, enabling faster and more effective responses.
Recognizing the need for standardized and reliable data, NERIS introduces a comprehensive set of new fire data standards.

These standards, including the Core Fire Data Specification, Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) Interface Standard & Application Programming Interface (API) Guide, Incident Data Standard, Investigative Data Standard, and Exposure Data Standard, among others, lay the foundation for essential informational elements, common terms, phrases, and definitions. This optimizes consistency, collaboration, and improved decision-making between fire departments and emergency services agencies.


Flexible Implementation Options

Fire departments play a vital role in keeping communities safe. However, managing incident data effectively can be challenging, hindering their ability to gain valuable insights and optimize operations. To address this, NERIS offers three flexible integration options, allowing fire departments of all technology environments to leverage its capabilities and streamline data management processes seamlessly.

Implementation A: No CAD or RMS:

  • Firefighters report incident details directly through free NERIS data capture apps for mobile devices or web browsers.
  • These apps offer intuitive user interfaces and ensure consistent data collection across the department.

Implementation B: Existing CAD but no RMS:

  • Firefighters use free NERIS data capture apps for specific information not readily available in the CAD system.
  • Certain data may be automatically imported from the CAD system into NERIS, reducing manual entry for firefighters.

Implementation C: Existing CAD and RMS:

  • Existing CAD and RMS systems are integrated with NERIS using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
  • Incident data is automatically pushed from the CAD and RMS to NERIS in real-time or near real-time.

Additional configuration or data mapping may be required depending on the specific features and capabilities of existing CAD and RMS systems. Fire departments are encouraged to consult NERIS implementation specialists to determine the best option for their needs and infrastructure. Furthermore, NERIS will also integrate and share data with NEMSIS, the sister national database for EMS incident reporting.


NERIS Overall Development Process

The development of NERIS adheres to a well-defined framework outlined in various publicly available resources, involving critical milestones. These milestones are expected to include establishing a partnership for core data standards, completing the updated fire data standard, and the projected release of NERIS v1.0 in 2024.

Following the successful implementation of earlier phases, the timeline may involve a nationwide launch campaign, migration of historical NFIRS data, and the eventual transition of all users onto NERIS. This multi-year process is subject to ongoing evaluation and may be adjusted based on various factors:

May 2023: Initiation of development efforts led by the Fire and Safety Research Institute (FSRI) in collaboration with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), and the American Fire Service. The initial focus is creating an updated core data standard and an initial operating capability (IOC) platform.

Ongoing: Throughout NERIS development, USFA will announce the release of the IOC and subsequent versions as they become available. This allows for phased implementation and feedback from early adopters.

Estimated 2024: The anticipated release of NERIS v1.0 marks a significant milestone towards nationwide implementation. This initial version will offer core data collection, analysis, and reporting functionalities.

2024-2025: USFA will launch a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and encourage fire departments to adopt NERIS. This phase will likely involve webinars, training programs, and collaboration with national fire service organizations.

Multi-year (ongoing): Phased migration of historical NFIRS data into NERIS. This process will ensure long-term data accessibility and facilitate historical trend analysis for fire prevention and safety initiatives. Each fire department will be assigned a new Fire Department Identifier (FDID) for NERIS as part of the rollout.

Target 2025: Full transition of all users onto NERIS, with NFIRS being decommissioned later.
The timeline for this final step will depend on the migration progress and feedback from the fire service community.

The above timeline is based on publicly available information (from sources listed in the Additional Resources section) and may be subject to change. USFA will provide ongoing updates and communication regarding the NERIS development and implementation process.


A Cost-Effective Alternative to Traditional RMS Systems

A significant benefit of NERIS is its ability to eliminate the need for a separate, often expensive Records Management System (RMS). Traditionally, fire departments rely on costly, bundled RMS solutions that often include unnecessary functionalities.

Through its robust data collection, sharing, and analysis features, NERIS offers an alternative that efficiently supports emergency response efforts and integrates with complementary software for specific record-keeping needs. This eliminates the financial burden of acquiring and maintaining an RMS, allowing fire departments to shift these resources toward other critical areas.

The benefits of NERIS extend beyond immediate cost savings. Fire departments can alleviate additional financial strain associated with RMS investments. This shift aligns with the need to meet decommissioning deadlines for outdated systems, positioning NERIS as an improved and more advanced choice.

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell emphasized that fire departments “will not need an RMS,” signaling a transformative departure from traditional data management practices.

By eliminating the cost burden of traditional RMS systems, NERIS liberates resources previously allocated to them, providing flexibility to reinvest in other areas of crucial operations, such as:

  • Acquiring additional fire and rescue software for asset and inventory management.
  • Implementing scheduling tools for improved operational efficiency.
  • Investing in training software for personnel development.

By strategically reallocating RMS resources, fire departments can build an operational ecosystem tailored to their unique nuances and complexities. This, combined with the data-driven insights from NERIS, empowers them to optimize efficiency and readiness across various facets of emergency response and management, improving efficiency, effectiveness, and a data-driven investment strategy.



The impending transition to NERIS presents fire departments with a crucial opportunity to modernize their incident data management strategies. NERIS offers an advanced, no-cost data capture system, multiple implementation pathways, and the ability to reduce costs by eliminating the need for a dedicated RMS. While careful planning and adjustments are needed, and fire departments may face unique challenges, NERIS still represents significant progress by optimizing data-driven decisions to enhance community protection.


Ensure Operational Efficiency Alongside the NERIS Transition

The transition from NFIRS to NERIS is a crucial step forward in fire data management. While some adjustments are expected, it’s vital to remember that NERIS is designed explicitly for incident reporting. Your core firefighting operations, especially your team’s readiness and efficiency, rely on broader tools.

While NERIS excels in incident reporting, fire departments need “best of breed” software to manage critical tasks like controlled substance monitoring, training, vehicle inspections, scheduling, and PPE tracking. This is where PSTrax steps in.

PSTrax, a powerful inventory management solution, ensures your station inspections are accurate, thorough, organized, and readily accessible, freeing firefighters to focus on serving and protecting their community.

Don’t let the transition to NERIS disrupt your operational efficiency. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about how PSTrax can help your team thrive in the face of change.


Additional Resources

Below is a list of key players and their respective websites and resource links involved in the NERIS transition. Because the development of NERIS is an ongoing collaborative project, additional organizations and stakeholders not listed here may play significant roles as the system and its implementation plans evolve.

  • Department of Homeland Security – Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T): Provides technological solutions and research initiatives to enhance the capabilities of first responders. DHS S&T is vital in driving NERIS’s development and technical aspects.
  • U.S. Fire Administration (USFA): A division of FEMA, the USFA provides guidance, resources, and leadership in promoting fire safety to the nation. The USFA works in collaboration with various entities to facilitate the development and implementation
    of NERIS.
  • Fire Service Research Institute (FSRI): FSRI is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing fire service research, education, and innovation. FSRI actively supports the NERIS initiative through research and development efforts.,
  • The American Fire Service: Fire departments and individual fire service professionals nationwide will play the most crucial role in adopting and utilizing NERIS effectively. Their feedback and experiences will be invaluable in shaping the system.
  • The IAFC and NERIS: The International Association of Fire Chiefs offers insights into NERIS and its implications for fire services: