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Navigating the Transition to NERIS: Best Practices and Strategies


The long-anticipated transition from the National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS) to the National Emergency Response Information System (NERIS) has begun, marked by the organization’s release of the data schema on May 6, 2024.

This significant shift, driven by collaborative efforts from the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), is more than just a technological upgrade. NERIS represents a pivotal step in modernizing fire and emergency services data systems, aiming to equip every fire department in the United States with actionable intelligence, thus closing the data loop in ways the legacy system never could.

Let’s dive into what NERIS entails, its impact on fire departments nationwide, and how you can prepare for it.


Why NERIS is Happening

Updating NFIRS was necessary to achieve modernization, improve data accuracy, and enhance decision-making capabilities in reporting. NERIS emerged as a solution to these challenges, conceived from an extensive, collaborative effort involving technical experts, industry leaders, and interagency partners.

NERIS incorporated insights from a public national survey of more than 1,600 stakeholder comments, meticulously designed to consolidate the best of existing data standards to meet the evolving needs of fire departments, their personnel, and the public.

Its implementation signifies a leap forward in our ability to collect, understand, and leverage data for informed decision-making that will enhance public safety. It’s also important to note that participation in NERIS will be required in the future for Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program recipients.


Understanding the NERIS Transition Process

The transition to NERIS spans three years, focusing on these key phases: direct entry load testing, data migration, training, and full deployment. With the recent schema release, NERIS remains on track for nationwide deployment by January 1, 2026.

Let’s break down this phased approach by year:



  •  Launch beta version of the NERIS direct entry platform for 10 fire departments to evaluate workflows and load testing. Meanwhile, RMS vendors like ImageTrend will start developing their own interfaces.
  • Conduct analysis of industry challenges (designed to test APIs from CAD and RMS vendors).
  • Complete development and launch v1.0 of NERIS.



  • Continue NERIS development via multiple software releases.
  • Phased rollout approach across the nation.
  • Navigate complexities of a hybrid report year – some departments will report through legacy NFIRS still.
  • Complete planning for the decommissioning of legacy NFIRS.



  • Effective January 1, 2026: NERIS will become the sole incident reporting system for the United States’ fire departments.


NERIS Improvements: How Data Management is Improving

The NERIS system introduces a range of enhancements designed to streamline and improve the accuracy of reporting and data collection for fire emergency incidents, while refining other elements from the NFIRS system.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these improvements:

  1. Comprehensive Reporting: Users can select up to three incident types for a single emergency incident, simplifying the reporting process. This allows firefighters to accurately describe complex scenarios without fitting them into a single category. For fire chiefs and data analysts, this multi-incident type capability aids in understanding the intricacies of emergency responses. For example, a motor vehicle collision involving injury, entrapment, and fire can be classified under three distinct incident types.

  2. Modernized and Updated List of Actions and Tactics: There will be a detailed recording of interventions at the scene, including data on fire suppression techniques, building ventilation, search and rescue operations, and contamination reduction. The focus will be on life safety metrics, collecting data not just on casualties involving firefighters and civilians, but also on rescues, evacuations, and maydays related to firefighters on emergency incident scenes.

  3. Dedicated Module to Emerging Hazards: This module will make the system more dynamic and adaptable to future changes in the fire service landscape. It will provide information on unforeseen threats, aiding in their prevention and control. This aligns with the all-hazards approach of NERIS, recognizing that around 70 percent of emergencies at local firehouses are not fire related.

  4. Understand Exposures Better: Entering exposure information, such as fire spread between buildings or from wildland to built environments, will be streamlined. This will reduce report completion time and improve the accuracy of describing complex fire incidents, aiding in better understanding of urban conflagrations and wildfire.

  5. Fast Access to Most Current Data: NERIS is designed to reduce the time entry burden for firefighters and provide near real-time access to the most current data for all relevant stakeholders, including local fire departments, state fire marshals, and the National Fire Data Center.

  6. Modular and Adaptable: NERIS is modular and designed to change over time as risks and community characteristics evolve, making it more adaptable than NFIRS.

  7. GIS and Location-Based: NERIS incorporates geospatial and location-based data, emphasizing the importance of understanding the "where" of incident response for better risk assessment and performance analysis.

  8. Relevant Metrics and Data: NERIS gathers relevant questions and metrics crucial for decision-makers at the local level, helping to understand complex scenarios and make informed decisions.


How to Set Your Fire Department Up for Success

Transitioning to a new system can spark concerns about potential disruptions and compatibility issues. However, there are practical strategies available for implementation now to ensure your agency can overcome obstacles and mitigate risks during the transition process.

Now is the time to get NERIS-ready by appointing a NERIS lead within your department—this should be someone within your organization with a deep understanding of your department’s data structures, computer systems, and organizational infrastructure.

Next, you’ll want to gather and understand all your information regarding your CAD systems, RMS data, mutual aid agencies and resources, and geographical data. It’s crucial all this information is integrated into NERIS so that there’s clarity on these types of complexities across the country.  

With thorough preparation, your department will be able to smoothly transition to NERIS and start utilizing its many features.


How ImageTrend Can Help You Be Ready

ImageTrend has been a leader in prehospital fire data collection since 1999. Our commitment to excellence extends to implementing the NERIS datasets now that they are available to the public and vendor community. We are actively engaged with all updates and are diligently participating in meetings whenever they occur.

With the release of the NERIS information, we are swiftly and efficiently making the necessary upgrades to support documentation and data submission to the NERIS system. Moreover, we are fully committed to promptly communicating any new information to our customers during our monthly user calls and newsletter, ensuring that everyone is kept well-informed every step of the way.

In addition, we will ensure continuity in reporting between NFIRS data and NERIS data, addressing any challenges that may arise to maintain a seamless transition.


Prepare for the transition to NERIS with confidence by leveraging ImageTrend's expertise and support. For more information about the schema release and upcoming NERIS updates, watch the recent webinar with FSRI or contact our team!

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