Washington State Violent Death Reporting System (WA-VDRS)

More than 1,600 people are injured and die by violence in Washington State each year, according to the Washington State Department of Health's Center for Health Statistics. Violence takes lives. It harms families, friends and communities, and has enormous economic costs. Despite diligent, coordinated work to stop these deaths, local data on risk factors is needed to target interventions. Approximately 78% of Washington's violent deaths are suicides.

To help find ways to prevent violent deaths, we need to know the facts. That's why the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) and Washington State Violent Death Reporting System (WA-VDRS) were created.

A complete national picture of violent death

Established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2002, the NVDRS is a nationwide, state-based data collection system which links information about the “who, when, where, and how” from data on violent deaths and provides insights about “why” they occurred.

It pools hundreds of data elements from multiple sources into a usable, anonymous database. NVDRS covers all types of violent deaths in all settings for all age groups.

These violent deaths include:

  • unintentional firearm deaths
  • homicides
  • suicides
  • legal intervention
  • deaths by undetermined intent

NVDRS can:

  • Inform decision makers and program planners about the magnitude, trends, and characteristics of violent deaths.
  • Educate your community about circumstances that contribute to violence in your county, state, or territory.
  • Develop and tailor violence prevention efforts to maximize benefits.
  • Evaluate the impact of prevention programs and strategies.

WA-VDRS started collecting data in 2015

In 2014, Washington state received funding from the CDC to begin implementing the WA-VDRS. Since January 2015, WA-VDRS staff members and partners have worked together to collect data about injuries related to violent deaths. WA-VDRS includes the injury if it was sustained in Washington state, regardless of the person's residency or location of death. Personal Identifying Information (PII) is excluded from the database.

The WA-VDRS team collects facts from four major sources about the same incident and pools the information into the NVDRS online database.

The four major sources are:

  • Death certificates
  • Coroner and medical examiner reports
  • Law enforcement reports
  • Toxicology laboratory reports

The same laws that protect other health department records, safeguard data security (RCW 43.70.545 and RCW 68.50.105) when shared with WA-VDRS.

Creating partnerships

A phased implementation method was followed in Washington. In 2015, we collected approximately 60% of the violent deaths from 9 pilot counties. The program was steadily expanded each year until 2018 when the program became statewide.

Death certificates are used to identify violent deaths and to create an incident in the NVDRS system. Supplemental information is obtained from coroners, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies who agreed to share their investigation reports, autopsies, and toxicology reports for each decedent. All sources of information are pooled together into the system providing a very comprehensive and detailed summary on each violent death. This includes a unique listing of stressors and circumstances in the decedent's life that may have led to the violent death.

No-cost data sharing partnerships are secured with partner agencies with a simple Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). After the MOU is signed, the WA-VDRS team requests reports from partners on a monthly basis. Our team of skilled abstractors review each report and abstract the facts and information into the system. Supplying reports is the only specific task requested of our partners.

WA-VDRS developed partnerships with many county sheriffs, coroners, and medical examiners as well as with numerous city police departments and the Washington State Patrol. However, more is needed. We want to include every county coroner and medical examiner as well as every law enforcement agency. Please contact our office at WA-VDRS@doh.wa.gov if you want to participate! See the current partner list (PDF).

Data and Presentations

Now that the system is statewide, more data is being shared out of the system and back to our partners. See the following infographics and/or presentations made using WA-VDRS data. These are broken down by age, sex and ethnicity. They also include data on the circumstances around the deaths.

View reports by published year:





See the Data and Reports page for more suicide data collected outside WA-VDRS.


If you have any questions, please email WA-VDRS@doh.wa.gov.