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Bomb Arson Tracking System: Expanding the Fire Department Toolkit

The Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS) is an invaluable tool to help U.S. fire departments and fire marshals in their efforts to track arson incidents, manage investigation data and apprehend arsonists.

BATS: The Bomb Arson Tracking System (IAFC TV Video)

The Bomb Arson Tracking System, created by the U.S. Bomb Data Center, is a free, online, state-of-the-art case management system that can be used to document any fire or explosion investigation. Each agency administers their own BATS account and controls the level of access to its case details. Using BATS can help to better safeguard our communities from crimes involving fire and explosives.


Recently, the IAFC partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Bomb Data Center to create a new informational video to alert the fire and emergency service to its evolving capabilities and encourage them to participate in the multifaceted system. BATS is provided at no cost to participating agencies.

“Crimes that involve arson and explosives are among the most devastating incidents that confront our country,” said Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director. “I encourage all fire service executives to incorporate BATS into their investigative policies and practices to help all of us maximize public safety surrounding these crimes.”

BATS, which has also been endorsed by the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), operates on many levels to support both local investigative needs and national collaboration and trend spotting. System benefits include:

  • Secure, user-friendly, web-based computer application 
  • Ability to track and manage investigations locally while simultaneously contributing findings to a national-level database and national statistical reporting
  • Self-administered accounts that allow departments and agencies to control how their information is used and shared 
  • Ability to rapidly research, track and compare multiple incidents—locally or across the nation—using real-time data while maintaining operational security
  • Enhanced reporting using standardized terminology for consistency across stakeholders
  • Access to intelligence advisories and a comprehensive resource library
  • Unique data sets associated with the tracing of explosive products from manufacture to the end-user
  • Ability to upload and store multimedia files relating to investigations
  • GIS mapping capabilities
  • Versatile unit-management tools that provide a constant snapshot of activity, providing valuable data for administration management of personnel and budgets

There are currently over 7,000 authorized BATS users from more than 1,500 local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement and public-safety agencies across the United States.

“This system has been utilized to assist with several major-case investigations which were the result of serial arson fires,” reported Lt. Colonel Scott K. Hoglander of the Prince George's County (Md.) Fire/EMS Department, Special Operations Command.

As one of the original pilot departments, Prince George’s County has been using BATS for seven years and praises the ease of the system, the value of the readily available information and the continued evolution of service offerings. “The Prince George’s County Office of the Fire Marshall could not function in our current capacity without the BATS system,” said Hoglander.

It’s critical for fire department personnel to understand that BATS is not intended to replace the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). While the primary mission of NFIRS is to collect fire-incident information, BATS is dedicated to documenting and supporting the resulting post-incident investigation in cases involving arson or explosives.

“We are happy to lend our support to this effort with the Bomb Arson Tracking System,” said Glenn Gaines, Acting U.S. fire administrator. “The USFA and ATF are partners in promoting arson awareness, and BATS is currently included in the curriculum at the National Fire Academy's Fire/Arson Origin-and-Cause Investigations course. In 2009, 10 firefighters died as a result of arson-related fires. In addition, an estimated $1.1 billion in direct property loss occurs annually. We all must continue every effort to protect our communities and be sure that when it comes to firefighter health and safety, everyone goes home.

To learn more, view the new IAFC-produced video, BATS: The Bomb Arson Tracking System, in the IAFC TV media player (above) or visit the ATF website, where the video will soon be posted under the U.S. Bomb Data Center.

Ann Davison, CAE, is the strategic information manager for the IAFC.

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