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PR- 015-08
January 12, 2009


Response Time to Structural Fires is Fastest in 14 Years

New Brooklyn Firehouse Opens Today

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today announced that fire fatalities declined 10 percent in the City last year, continuing a historic, unprecedented drop in civilian fire-related deaths during the last several years. The Mayor and Commissioner also announced that in 2008 the Fire Department had the fastest response time to structural fires in 14 years, getting on scene 15 seconds quicker on average as compared to 2007.  The announcement was made in the quarters of Engine 201, Ladder 114, and Battalion 40, which opened today for the first time.   

"We have the best Fire Department in the world and never has the City been better protected and served by our Bravest," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The declines in civilian fire deaths during the last several years are remarkable, and we owe much to the dedicated men and women of the FDNY for responding quickly and capably in protecting people and property throughout our City."     

"There has never been as safe and secure a time for New York City in terms of fire-related civilian deaths," said Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. "With the help of a new dispatch program, hard work by our fire safety education unit and the unwavering dedication of our members, this is an achievement that makes everyone at FDNY very proud."

Fire Deaths Lowest on Record

There were 86 fire-related deaths in 2008, down from 95 in 2007. For the last three years (2006-2008) fewer than 100 civilians have died in fires, and in five of the last seven years there have been fewer than 100 fire deaths annually. Prior to 2002, this happened only three times in the previous 86 years (1919, 1921 and 1927).

Of the 86 deaths in 2008, the leading causes were smoking (23 deaths), electrical fires (14), and child playing with matches/open flame (11). The City, in partnership with the FDNY Foundation, has focused in recent years on public safety campaigns aimed at reducing fires and fire-related injuries and deaths. Educational fire safety presentations have increased five-fold in recent years, from 1,775 conducted in 2004 to more than 9,300 in 2008, when 660,000 New Yorkers were instructed on how to protect against fires in their homes. The FDNY also launched a $900,000 "Sound the Alarm" public awareness campaign in February 2008 that focused on having working smoke detectors in the home. A recent study by the FDNY found that in 75 percent of all fatal fires, there was no working smoke detector present. The FDNY Foundation and FDNY last year distributed free more than 250,000 batteries and 30,000 smoke detectors throughout the city.

Structural Fire Response Times Lowest Since 1994

The FDNY's average response time to structural fires was 15 seconds faster on average to the more than 26,000 structural fire calls citywide (4:12 in 2008, compared to 4:27 in 2007) - the fastest response time in 14 years. Commissioner Scoppetta credited a new citywide dispatch program that began in June for the 2008 response time average, the second best year on record. Under the new policy, fire alarm 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. Expedited dispatch was piloted beginning in Queens in February 2008 and went citywide in mid-June. In addition to structural fire calls, fire unit response times to all emergencies dropped to 4:38 - 11 seconds faster than in 2007.

Other important statistics in 2008 include:

  • There were 26,862 structural fires, down from 28,004 in 2007 and the second-lowest on record since 1959;
  • There were 17,192 non-structural fires (such as auto, brush or rubbish fires) which is the lowest figure in department history;
  • There were 44,054 total fires - the lowest number in more than 50 years;
  • Firefighters responded to 211,776 medical emergencies for firefighters, the highest number since firefighters began responding to medical emergencies in 1995;
  • There were 25,579 malicious false alarms, the lowest level since 1963. The highest was in 1977, with 262,998;
  • The FDNY's Emergency Medical Service responded to a record 1,215,026 calls, up 2.3 percent from 2007; and
  • EMS average response time to life-threatening medical emergencies (Segment 1-3 which includes cardiac arrest) was 6 minutes 38 seconds, unchanged from 2007.


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Francis X. Gribbon   (Fire Department)
(718) 999-2056

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