February 18, 2023
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh today announced the appointment of Joseph Pfeifer as First Deputy Commissioner, the second-highest civilian rank in the FDNY. Pfeifer retired at the rank of Assistant Chief in July 2018 after 37 years in the FDNY. As First Deputy Commissioner and strategic leader, he is charged with managing the day-to-day operations and activities of the FDNY across all offices and bureaus.
“Chief Joe Pfeifer embodies what it means to be New York’s Bravest, being the first chief to respond to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and founding the department’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “With nearly 40-years of experience with the FDNY, he is an excellent choice to assume one of the highest-ranking positions in this great department and is someone that New Yorkers and firefighters can count on to innovate in all aspects of fire prevention and safety.”
“Joe Pfeifer is an incredible and innovative leader. He served as one of New York City’s Bravest for decades, created partnerships and programs that enhanced the safety and training of our members, and has always been there for our city, especially on our darkest days,” said Commissioner Kavanagh. “Having already worked closely with Joe for many years, I am thrilled he has returned home to the FDNY and joined our executive leadership team.”
“The heart of FDNY is the ability to unify efforts to solve complex problems in the face of great tragedy,” said Chief Pfeifer of his new role. “Our united team is a sign of resilience to reflect on the past and envision the future so that we can enhance the present.”
About First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer
Joseph (Joe) Pfeifer, 67, retired from the FDNY in 2018 as an Assistant Chief. He is the founding director of FDNY’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness. As a Battalion Chief on September 11th, he was the first Chief to respond to the World Trade Center attacks. While at FDNY, Pfeifer served for 17 years as the Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness, shaping strategic planning, intelligence sharing, and interagency response.
Pfeifer began his career in 1981, first assigned to Engine Company 234 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 1987 he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to Ladder Company 128 in Long Island City, Queens, and in 1993 he was promoted to Captain and assigned to Engine Company 307 in Jackson Heights, Queens. A promotion to Battalion Chief in 1997 led to his assignment to Battalion 1 in Lower Manhattan, where he was serving on the morning of September 11th, 2001. In 2002, he was promoted to Deputy Chief and assigned to Division 1 in Manhattan and then shortly later to Deputy Assistant Chief. He was cited twice for bravery, including for a rescue of an elderly woman trapped by fire.
He currently serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor in Columbia University’s the School of International Public Affairs and the Director of Crisis Leadership at the Columbia Climate School’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, teaching several executive education programs on crisis leadership and leading research teams to examine the preparedness and response of international cities to extreme events, and at the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, teaching cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
He graduated with a B.A. from Cathedral College, and earned Master of Arts degrees from Immaculate Conception Seminary, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Harvard Kennedy School.