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Mayor Bloomberg And Fire Commissioner Cassano Announce New Risk-based Fire Inspections Citywide Based On Data Mined From City Records

May 15, 2013

Mayor's Office of Data Analytics Validates and Improves Effectiveness of System

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, Chief Analytics Officer Michael Flowers and Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant today announced that firefighters citywide are now using new technology that improves the Department’s building inspection program by focusing on structures that pose the greatest fire risk. The Risk Based Inspection System application – the first of its kind in the nation – uses data from multiple sources, including information from other city agency databases, to assess and prioritize 50,000 buildings firefighters inspect annually. The new system is part of an ongoing $24 million project to improve and enhance the FDNY’s building inspection unit. Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement at the quarters of Engine Company 259 and Ladder Company 128 in Queens, one of 218 firehouses citywide where the technology is being used.

“Uniformed firefighters currently perform 50,000 full-building fire safety inspections every year and until now, fire officers had very limited information about how to prioritize buildings for inspection in the districts they protect,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our new system  changes that. Drawing on building information from many sources, the Risk Based Inspection System enables fire companies to prioritize the buildings that pose the greatest fire risk—and that means we’ll stop more fires before they can start.”

“The Risk Based Inspection System will not only make the public safer, it will make our Firefighters safer as well by putting them in a better position to inspect and address buildings at risk before there’s a fire,” said Fire Commissioner Cassano. “RBIS makes our firefighters even more prepared on every single tour and helps the Department continue to meet its longstanding goals of reducing fires and driving fire related deaths to historic lows.”

“This new technology gives firefighters another tool to use in their efforts to save more lives by further reducing building fires in our city,” said Deputy Mayor Holloway. “Building fires have decreased 16 percent citywide in the last 11 years, and fire deaths have declined to the lowest levels on record. By focusing on buildings that pose the greatest fire risk, we’ll drive these numbers even lower—and that will save lives.”

“What we've done here is activate more of the City’s brain,” said Chief Policy Advisor Feinblatt. “By drawing data from the Departments of Buildings, Finance, City Planning, and Fire, into a complete rap sheet of a building, we have created a risk based profile of factors associated with fire. Mining data like this breaks down agency barriers, knits the City’s knowledge together and helps us prevent injuries and save lives.”

“We’re using all that we know to safeguard New Yorkers, and the firefighters that protect them, from serious fires,” said Chief Analytics Officer Flowers. “The Risk Based Inspection System identifies for inspection buildings that pose the greatest risk – so that we get to the worst first. I want to thank Chief Programmer Lauren Talbot and Chief Analyst Ben Dean for their diligence and ingenuity in helping FDNY complete this innovative system.”

“Data are the driving force behind good management, and the Risk Based Inspection System is an innovative example of City information being analyzed and used to improve public safety outcomes for New Yorkers,” said Chief Information and Innovation Officer Merchant. “As our Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications implements the City’s comprehensive open data legislation, we’ll continue to find new ways to enhance the delivery of critical public services.”

The Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics recently evaluated the Risk Based Inspection System and validated its overall effectiveness, concurring that the metrics correlate with recent fire and fire-related injuries and deaths. That Office further enhanced the program’s ability to predict fire risk, which will better direct FDNY inspectors toward sites with the greatest risk.

The Risk Based Inspection System has changed how each of the city’s 341 fire units – engines and ladders – conducts daily building inspections. Fire units are each responsible for inspecting buildings within their immediate response area. This work was previously performed essentially on a cyclical basis, with limited information about each structure. The Risk Based Inspection System changes that by accessing a computerized data warehouse of building and inspection information that includes electronic folders for each building and that organizes, processes and holds relevant information. In addition to the Risk Based Inspection System database, individual building information is also accessed from several other city agency databases including the Department of City Planning, Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Finance.

The new risk based model tracks, scores, prioritizes, and then automatically schedules a building for inspection. At the core of the system is a risk model that allows the FDNY to prioritize buildings for inspection based on specified risk criteria. Currently, the risk model contains characteristics including the building’s construction material, whether or not the building has a sprinkler system, the height and age of the building, last date of inspection and occupancy. The system also captures and tracks violation history and then reschedules follow-up inspections when necessary.

The FDNY is currently planning for an expansion of the model with additional data sources including fire history and Fire Code enforcement actions. The model will continue to grow over time through the inclusion of additional data and risk factors and will be shaped and refined through on-going monitoring and evaluation.

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