What makes a good Incident Report?

A good incident report, that will make your Chief or Administrator proud and serve your department well, contains a number of aspects.


Strong Narrative

The narrative must provide all the facts of what occurred on the incident. This becomes the main department written record for that incident in case of future enquiry, or legal. As incident command imagine what you'd need to know three years from now to answer for the department actions on that incident. Details matter. 

Narrative - Risk Mitigation

Departments face oversight from the community and at times incident reports are reviewed to establish correct procedure was employed. Include details like "checked all around the appliance for heat with the thermal imaging camera (TIC) to determine no extension" and "suggested homeowner call a maintenance technician before reentering the home". You protect your community. Document that to protect your department too.


If you used consumable resources (such as flares or hazardous material spill containment products) note them in the report.

Abnormal Events

If things happened that don't normally happen, consider documenting them. Other members of the department will read those reports, and they can learn from obstacles you needed to overcome and techniques you applied.

Note: Imagine having to review this incident in a year, or longer. What details do you need to fully remember all that occurred?

Complete Details

Narrative is very important for the report writer and the department, but there are other important aspects:

  • Members will want to be granted credit for their response hours; get attendance and times (hours) both correct.
  • Roles are important for who were the key players, but also what actions were taken (e.g. patient care, landing zone ground contact, etc.) 
  • Apparatus is important for when the vehicle was last used, how often it was used, and what it was used for. Some grant applications for new truck grants require this type of information, e.g. "how many outside fires did wild-land brush trucks respond to in the last three years?".
  • Agencies involved is most important when another agency is the primary (i.e. you are providing mutual aid or auto aid to them.) That said, recording all agencies involved (law enforcement, medical, and others) can be useful when negotiating aid agreements in years to come.
Note: The Incident Category setting is often overlooked, but it is good to update, if required.
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