FSRI lead research engineer Craig Weinschenk speaking at NERIS Panel Summit
NERIS Panel Summit Convened to Unveil Platform Prototype, Onboard First User Departments

In March 2024, experts and leaders in fire and emergency services gathered in Dallas, Texas, for the inaugural NERIS Panel Summit. Hosted by the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of the UL Research Institutes, the event marked a significant step forward in the development of the National Emergency Response Information System (NERIS).

A Practical Approach to Innovation 

The Summit was characterized by a practical, hands-on approach to modernizing emergency response data. Attendees included representatives from the six NERIS prototype test departments and included the first-ever live demo of the NERIS platform from project leader and FSRI lead research engineer Craig Weinschenk.   

Attendees participated in discussions and breakout sessions across three key panel tracks: 

NERIS Senior Leader Panel

[Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, US Fire Administrator, addresses attendees]

The Senior Leaders focused on applying fire-based incident data for informed decision-making and supporting NERIS launch and adoption. Key takeaways included:

  • Utilization of Fire-Based Incident Data: The Senior Leaders highlighted the importance of fire-based incident data in informing national-level decision-making, especially for local fire services in resource allocation and risk assessment.
  • Provision of Impactful Data by NERIS: The group emphasized the need for NERIS to provide data that aids in understanding the long-term impact of resource expenditures and informs training and resource deployment.
  • Connection of Less Visible Departments: They also discussed the potential for NERIS to connect less visible departments, such as rural volunteer stations, to national data systems, enhancing their grant eligibility and disaster response capacity.

NERIS Technical Expert Panel

[Technical Panelists with NERIS software engineer Edithson Abelard during a breakout session]

The Technical Panel addressed updates to the Core Draft NERIS Data Framework and the development of the mission-critical data governance policies. Key discussions included: 

  • Property Loss and Displacement Data: There was a consensus on the importance of incorporating data on property loss and displacement into the schema. This would allow for a more comprehensive understanding beyond just the dollar value and would include accessing assessor data.
  • Location Types: The panel discussed how different location types, such as temporary structures and unhoused structures, should be categorized. A critical point was the need to track instances where the actual use of a structure differed from its intended use.
  • Emerging Hazards: The panel explored pathways to ensure that emerging hazards are continually identified and addressed. This included discussions on different sensing functions and the development of a request-to-add process that would enable firefighters to directly provide input on new hazards.
  • Data Dictionary Development: They also deliberated on the policy framework needed once the initial draft of the data dictionary is released. This includes procedures for proposing new entries or for suggesting changes to existing definitions.


NERIS Prototype Fire Departments

[Tom Jenkins leads the Prototype breakout session]


[NERIS Prototype Department Representatives (left to right) - Back: Dave McVey, Brian Fennessy, Don Lombardi, James Johnson, Lori Smith, Kevin Haynes, Steve Aseltine. Front: Dustin McDonald, John Butler, Michael Bronner, U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, Clay Carpenter, William Daywalt, Pierce Power-Quitmeyer]

The Prototype Departments engaged in live training and fact finding with the prototype NERIS, establishing fire department nodes and setting priorities for testing and feedback. Those Prototype Departments are as follows: 

  • Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, Virginia
  • Frisco Fire Department, Texas
  • Orange County Fire Authority, California
  • Springdale Fire Department, Arkansas
  • Upper Merion Township Fire & EMS Department, Pennsylvania
  • West Metro Fire Rescue, Colorado

Highlights included:

  • Streamlining Incident Reporting: Highlighting the importance of streamlining incident reporting and the potential for NERIS to reset years of inconsistent practices. 
  • Testing Data to Inform Design: Focusing on testing data to inform design, workflow, and user experience, with an emphasis on the prototype's ability to improve with each round of feedback. 
  • Customizable and Accessible Education: Emphasizing the need for education and training to be customizable and accessible, potentially funded by grants, to suit various department types.

Looking Ahead 

[USFA Advisor Rebecca Harned leads a Senior Leader breakout session]

The NERIS Panel Summit marked a significant milestone in the development of the nation's emerging national emergency response data system. Not merely a gathering, the working sessions gave a forum for foundational work to be reviewed, and forge collaborations. The discussions and insights from the summit are now actively shaping the ongoing refinement of the new system.