Fire deaths and response time down

With new dispatch protocols and improved technology for helping firefighters get to emergencies, the New York City Fire Department is responding to fires faster than at any other time on record, reported Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.
Scoppetta announced on Thursday, September 16 that the city has only had 44 fire deaths so far this year – fewer than ever before. In 2008, there were 59 fire deaths from January to August; in 2007, there were 64. Fire deaths in the last seven years are the lowest ever recorded in city history.
Since January, firefighters have been responding on average to fire calls in 4:03 – the fastest time ever recorded – and 13 seconds faster than the same period (January to August) in 2008; 26 seconds faster than in 2007.
Response times are based on the arrival of the first unit on the scene.
“These record-setting response times are a tremendous accomplishment for the FDNY that has been achieved through hard work from our members and innovation in the way we dispatch our fire companies,” said Scoppetta. “Anyone who has ever lived through a fire knows seconds can mean lost lives. It’s no wonder fewer people have died from fires this year than ever before.”
However, following the report, Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Captain Al Hagen said in a statement, “Response time statistics can be easily manipulated. Fire Department rigs are not responding faster. Improvements have been artificially generated by sending units out the door with incomplete information, often to the wrong address or with the wrong equipment. That kind of ‘improvement’ gives a decidedly false sense of security to the citizens of NYC.”
Under a new dispatch program that began in June 2008, dispatchers immediately assign fire units to an emergency as soon as they obtain and confirm the location and nature of an incident from the caller. Previously, they gathered additional details before dispatching units. Further enhancements to the city’s 9-1-1 system were implemented when the Unified Call Taker (UCT) process became operational in May 2009.
Response to non-structural fires – such as car and brush fires – also reached a historic low, averaging four minutes, 24 seconds thus far in 2009, as compared to 20 seconds higher in the first eight months of last year.
There are also fewer fires throughout the city, Scoppetta was happy to report. As of August 31, there were 17,176 structural fires in the five boroughs. Comparatively, there were 17,725 fires in the first eight months of last year and 18,604 during the same period in 2007. That represents a three percent drop since August 2008 and an eight percent drop since August 2007.
Scoppetta credited the hard work of FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit — which, among other things, gives presentations throughout all five boroughs, including at churches, schools and community centers — in large part for the reduction.
“Last year, our critical fire safety message reached 660,000 New Yorkers and this year we expect to reach just as many, if not more,” he said. “Working with the FDNY Foundation, so far this year we have distributed more than 100,000 batteries and more than 30,000 smoke alarms. And we’re not done yet.”

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