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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fire Department of New York

New York City Fire Department Emblem.svg

Motto: "New York's Bravest"
EMS Motto: "New York's Best" [1]
Established July 31, 1865 {origins go back to 1648}
Staffing Career
Strength 14,814 (11,600 firefighters, 3,214 EMT/paramedics)
Engines 197
Trucks 146
Squads 7
Rescues 5
Fireboats 3
Fire chief Chief of Department Edward S. Kilduff
Commissioner Salvatore Cassano

The New York City Fire Department or the Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) has the responsibility for protecting the citizens and property of New York City's five boroughs from fires and fire hazards, providing emergency medical services, technical rescue as well as providing first response to biological, chemical and radioactive hazards. The department has its headquarters in Brooklyn.[2]

The FDNY, the largest municipal fire department in the United States, has approximately 11,600 uniformed officers and firefighters and over 3,200 uniformed EMTs and paramedics. It faces an extraordinarily varied challenge. In addition to responding to building types that range from wood-frame single family homes to high-rise structures, there are the many bridges and tunnels, large parks and wooded areas that can give rise to major brush fires, and one of the largest subway systems in the world. These challenges add yet another level of firefighting complexity and have led to the creation of the motto for FDNY firefighters of New York’s Bravest.



An FDNY deputy chief during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Like most fire departments in the United States, the New York City Fire Department is organized in a paramilitary fashion.[3] The department's executive staff is divided into two areas including a civilian fire commissioner who is in charge of the department and a fire chief who is the operational lead. The current fire commissioner is (former fire chief) Salvatore Cassano, who took over from Nicholas Scoppetta at the start of 2010. The executive staff includes the civilian fire commissioners who are responsible for bureaus within the Department, along with the Chief of Department, Chief of Fire Operations, Chief of EMS, the Chief Fire Marshal and the staff chiefs. Staff chiefs include the seven citywide tour commanders, the Chief of Safety, the Chief of Fire Prevention, and the Chief of Training.[4]

Operationally and geographically, the department are nominally organized into five borough commands for the five traditional boroughs of New York. Within those Borough Commands exist nine divisions, each headed by a Deputy Chief. Within each division operate four to seven battalions, led by a Battalion Chief and typically consisting of 180-200 firefighters and officers. Each battalion consists of four to eight companies, with a company being led by a Captain. He (No females currently hold the rank of Captain) commands three lieutenants and 25 firefighters. Lastly, the unit consisting of the members of the company on call during a given tour (4-5 for an Engine, 5 for a Truck and 7 for Haz-Mat).



1648 - 1865

The origins of the New York City Fire Department trace back to 1648 when the first fire ordinance was adopted in what then was the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. Hooks, ladders and buckets were financed through the collection of fines for dirty chimneys and a fire watch was established consisting of eight wardens which were drawn from the male population. An organization known as the prowlers but given the nickname the rattle watch patrolled the streets with buckets, ladders and hooks from nine in the evening until dawn looking for fires. Leather shoe buckets, 250 in all, were manufactured by local Dutch shoemakers in 1658, and these bucket brigades are regarded as the beginning of the New York Fire Department.[5]

In 1664 New Amsterdam became a British settlement and was renamed New York.[6] The first New York fire brigade entered service in 1731 equipped with two hand-drawn pumpers which had been transported from London, England. These two pumpers formed Engine Company 1 and Engine Company 2. These were the first fire engines to be used in the American colonies, and all able-bodied citizens were required respond to a fire alarm and to participate in the extinguishing under the supervision of the Aldermen.[7]

Mid 19th century Chief

The city's first firehouse was built in 1736 in front of City Hall on Broad Street. A year later, on December 16, 1737, the colony's General Assembly created the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York, appointing 30 men who would remain on call in exchange for exemption from jury and militia duty. The city's first official firemen were required to be "able, discreet, and sober men who shall be known as Firemen of the City of New York, to be ready for service by night and by day and be diligent, industrious and vigilant."[7]

Although the 1737 Act created the basis of the fire department, the actual legal entity was incorporated in the State of New York on March 20, 1798 under the name of "Fire Department, City of New York."

1865 - 1898

In 1865 the volunteer fire department was abolished by a state act was passed to create the Metropolitan Fire District and the Metropolitan Fire Department (MFD). This effectively gave control of the fire departments in the cities of New York and Brooklyn to the Governor who appointed its Board of Commissioners. There was never any effective incorporation of the fire departments of the two cities during this period. It wasn't until the Greater City of New York was consolidated in 1898 that the two were combined under one structure and leadership.

The change met with a mixed reaction from the citizens, and some of the eliminated volunteers became bitter and resentful which resulted in both political battles and street fights. But the insurance companies in the city finally got their way by having the volunteers replaced with paid "professionals." The members of the paid fire department were mostly selected from the prior volunteers. All of the volunteer's apparatus, including their fire houses, were seized by the state who made use of them to form the new organization and form the basis of the FDNY as we know it today.

Original sheet celebrating the official formation of the Metropolitan Fire Department, 1866

The MFD lasted until 1870 when the Tweed Charter ended state control in the city. As a result, a new Board of Fire Commissioners was created and the original name of the Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) was re-instated.

Former headquarters of the Brooklyn Fire Department, near MetroTech Center, before its consolidation with NYC in 1898. Designed by architect Frank Freeman; built 1892.

Initially, the paid fire service only covered New York City (present day Manhattan), until the act of 1865 which united Brooklyn with New York to form the Metropolitan District. The same year the fire department consisted of 13 Chief Officers and 552 Company Officers and firemen. The officers and firemen worked a continuous tour of duty, with 3 hours a day off for meals and one day off a month, and were paid salaries according to their rank or grade. 1865 also saw the first adoption of regulations, although they were fairly strict and straitlaced.

Following several large fires in 1866 which resulted in excessive fire losses and a rise in insurance rates, the fire department was reorganized under the command of General Alexander Shaler, and with military discipline the paid department reached its full potential which resulted in a general reduction in fire losses. In 1870 the merit system of promotion in the Fire Department was established.

Southwestern Westchester County (which would later become the western Bronx) was annexed by New York in 1874 and the volunteers there were phased out and replaced by the paid department. This pattern was repeated as City services expanded elsewhere. There are ten volunteer fire companies left in New York City that respond to calls in their neighborhood in addition to a normal assignment of FDNY units. They are typically in more isolated neighborhoods of the city. By borough, the volunteer companies are:

  • Bronx (2) - Aviation Hose Company #3 and Edgewater Park Volunteer Hose Company #1
  • Brooklyn (1) - Gerritsen Beach Fire Volunteers Inc.
  • Queens (5) - West Hamilton Beach VFD, Broad Channel VFD, Roxbury VFD, Rockaway Point VFD, and Point Breeze VFD
  • Staten Island (2) - Oceanic H&L Company #1 and Richmond Engine Company #1

The Staten Island volunteer companies are dispatched by the Staten Island Communications Office and operate on the FDNY Staten Island frequency. Broad Channel and West Hamilton Beach have teleprinters in parallel with the FDNY fire companies that also serve their area. The Brooklyn and first four volunteer companies in Queens also provide ambulance services. Broad Channel VFD has over 102 years of active service.

1898 - 2001

On January 1, 1898 the different areas of New York were consolidated, which ushered the Fire Department into a new era. All the fire forces in the various sections were brought under the unified command of the first Commissioner in the history of the Fire Department. This same year Richmond (now Staten Island) became a part of the City of New York, but the volunteer units there remained in place until they were gradually replaced by paid units in 1915, 1928, 1932 and 1937 when only two volunteer units remained.

Monument to the Heroes of the Fire Department

The unification of the Fire Department, which took place in 1898, would pave the way for many changes. In 1909 the Fire Department received its first piece of motorized fire engine. On March 25, 1911 a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company killed 146 workers, most of whom where young female immigrants. Later the same year the fire college was formed to train new fire fighters, and in 1912 the Bureau of Fire Prevention was created.

In 1919 the Uniformed Firefighters Association was formed. Tower ladders and the Superpumper System were introduced in 1965. Major apparatus of the Superpumper System (the Superpumper and the Supertender) was phased out in 1982, in favor of the Maxi-Water Unit. But the 5 Satellite Units of the system, together with the Maxi-Water Unit (known as Satellite 6 since 1999) are still actively used as of 2007 for multiple alarm fires and certain other incidents. These are now called the Satellite Water System. Other technical advances included the introduction of high pressure water systems, the creation of a Marine fleet, adoption of vastly improved working conditions and the utilization of improved radio communications.

On November 23, 1965, incoming Mayor Lindsay announced the appointment of Robert O. Lowery as Fire Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department. His was the first commissioner level appointment announced by the Mayor-elect. Lowery, who was the first African American to serve as a Fire Commissioner of a major U.S. city, served in that position for more than 7 years until his resignation on September 29, 1973 in order to campaign for then-Controller Abraham D. Beame, the Democratic candidate for Mayor.[8] In 1982 the first female firefighters joined the ranks of the Fire Department, and on March 17, 1996 Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani merged the emergency medical services of the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation into the FDNY.

September 11, 2001 attacks

A New York City fire fighter looks up at what remains of the World Trade Center after its collapse during a Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

On September 11, 2001 terrorists associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger aircraft and used these as weapons in order to attack targets in New York and Washington, DC during the September 11, 2001 attacks. Two aircraft, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were flown by the terrorists into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, causing massive damage both during impact, when the jet fuel was consumed by fire, and finally when the two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed.[9]

New York City fire companies and EMS crews were deployed to the World Trade Center minutes after the first aircraft struck the north tower. Chief officers set up a command center in the lobby as first-arriving units entered the building and firefighters began climbing the stairs. A mobile command center was also set-up outside on Vesey Street, but was destroyed when the buildings collapsed. A command post was then set-up at a firehouse in Greenwich Village. The FDNY deployed 200 units to the site, with more than 400 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics on the scene when the buildings collapsed.[10]

A New York City Deputy chief fire coordinates the recovery effort underway at the World Trade Center.

Many firefighters arrived at the World Trade Center without meeting at the command centers. Problems with radio communication caused commanders to lose contact with many of the firefighters who went into the buildings; those firefighters were unable to hear evacuation orders.[11] There was practically no communication with the police, who had helicopters at the scene. When the towers collapsed, hundreds were killed or trapped within. Three hundred and forty-three FDNY firefighters and paramedics who responded to the attacks on September 11, 2001 lost their lives. In which the number was realized to be 345 after paramedics were not added into the original number[12], and countless others were injured. The casualties included First Deputy Commissioner William M. Feehan, Chief of Department Peter Ganci[10] and Department Chaplain Mychal Judge.[13]

Meanwhile, average response times to fires elsewhere in the city that day only rose by one minute, to 5.5 minutes.[14] Many of the surviving firefighters continued to work alternating 24-hour shifts as part of the Rescue and recovery effort after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Firefighters and EMS personnel came from hundreds of miles around New York City, including numerous career and volunteer units in Upstate New York, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even Michigan.

2002 - Present

The quarters of Engine 205 and Ladder 118 depict a mural dedicated to 9/11.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks the Fire Department has rebuilt itself and continues to serve the people of New York. During the 2003 North American blackout, FDNY was called on to rescue hundreds of people from stranded elevators in approximately 800 Manhattan high-rise office and apartment buildings. The entire fire department was called in to handle the many fires which resulted, reportedly from people using candles for light.[15]

At the beginning of the 21st century, there are 11,400 uniformed fire officers and firefighters under the command of the Chief of Department. The New York City Fire Department also includes 2800 Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics and Supervisors assigned to Department's EMS Command, and 1200 civilian employees.[5]

Salvatore Cassano is the current commissioner of the FDNY. He received this job from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (January 1, 2010). Mr. Cassano is the 34th FDNY Commissioner

Ideology and core competencies

Ladder 21 - "The Pride of Hell's Kitchen".

The FDNY derives its name from the Tweed Charter which created the Fire Department of the City of New York. This is in contrast to most other fire departments in the U.S. where the name of the city precedes the word fire department.[16]


  • The FDNY ideology of aggressive interior fire attack grew naturally out of the building and population density that characterize the city.[17]
  • The contribution of Irish Americans to the FDNY dates back to the formation of the paid fire department. During the Civil War New York's Irish firefighters were the backbone of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment (New York Fire Zouaves), a highly decorated unit.[18]
  • Members of the FDNY have the nickname "New York's Bravest".[1]
  • Members of the FDNY EMS have the nickname "New York's Best".[19]
  • Members of the FDNY are known to some ladies as "New York's Hottest".[20]
An FDNY Haz-Tec Ambulance
  • In addition to firefighting, rescue and HAZMAT, FDNY stations ambulances throughout the city and supplies paramedics and EMTs. Together with ambulances run by certain participating hospitals (locally known as voluntaries, not to be confused with Volunteers) and private companies, it is known as the FDNY EMS Command, which is the largest pre-hospital care provider in the world, responding to over 1.3 million calls each year. All of the FDNY EMS Command members are also trained to the HAZMAT Operations level. 35 EMS units, known as the Hazardous Material Tactical Units (Haz-Tac Ambulances), are trained to the Haz Mat Technician level allowing them to provide emergency medical care and decontamination in a hazardous environment, in addition to their normal 911 duties. Of these 35 ambulances which consist of 15 BLS and 20 ALS ten are also Rescue Paramedic Ambulances whose crews are additionally trained for; Confined space rescue, Trench Rescue, Crush Injuries, and Building Collapse Rescues. The Rescue Medics operate with additional exclusive protocols and specialized medical equipment.[21]

Core competencies

A citywide Incident Management System plan released by the Office of the Mayor on May 14, 2004 set forth several "core competencies" which determine which agency has the authority to direct operations.[22] FDNY core competencies include:


Fire calls for 2006

For the period 1 January 2006, to 31 December 2006 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[23]

  • Structural fires: 27,817
  • Non-structural fires: 20,702
  • Non-fire emergencies: 198,202
  • Medical emergencies: 209,397

There were 2,971 serious fires in 2006, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity. Response times to incidents were roughly between two and a half, to six minutes from the time of call, depending on total activity and borough, with the quickest responses being in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the slowest in Queens and Staten Island.

Fire calls for 2007

For the period 1 January 2007, to 31 December 2007 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[24]

  • Structural fires: 28,004
  • Non-structural fires: 19,388
  • Non-fire emergencies: 209,943
  • Medical emergencies: 207,677

There were 3,143 serious fires in 2007, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity.

Fire calls for 2008

For the period 1 January 2008, to 31 December 2008 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[25]

  • Structural fires: 26,862
  • Non-structural fires: 17,192
  • Non-fire emergencies: 191,926
  • Medical emergencies: 211,776

There were 2,715 serious fires in 2008, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity. Response times to incidents were roughly between four to five minutes from the time of call, depending on total activity and borough, with the quickest responses being in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the slowest in Queens and Staten Island.

Unit Activity CY 2008

Top Five Engine Companies

Company Runs
1. Engine 75 5,395
2. Engine 58 5,387
3. Engine 48 5,270
4. Engine 62 5,221
5. Engine 298 4,999

Top Five Ladder Companies

Company Runs
1. Ladder 123 4,334
2. Ladder 26 4,215
3. Ladder 4 4,148
4. Ladder 43 4,146
5. Ladder 157 3,896

Top Five Battalions

Battalion Runs
1. Battalion 9 5,451
2. Battalion 8 4,621
3. Battalion 6 4,352
4. Battalion 50 3,989
5. Battalion 15 3,959

Top Five EMS Units

Unit Runs
1. 07C3 2,254
2. 38H3 2,223
3. 16B3 2,197
4. 06B3 2,182
5. 12B2 2,179


Bureau of Communications

Radio station on Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn
Fire Telegraph Station in Woodhaven, Queens

Presently there are five Bureau of Fire Communications alarm offices, one for each of the five boroughs that make up New York City.

The initial call to an FDNY communications office is taken by the Alarm Receipt Dispatcher (ARD) who speaks with the caller in order to determine the nature of the emergency. The ARD enters the information by keyboard into the Starfire computer system, which gives a recommended response based on the information provided. This information is automatically sent to the Decision Dispatcher (DD)and the "Tour Supervising Dispatcher".

When the Decision Dispatcher has made a decision as to what units will actually be assigned to the incident, unless the supervisor intervenes, he or she pushes the "release" button and the alarm is routed to the assigned companies, either in their firehouses or to the mobile data terminals (MDT) if their apparatus is in the field, depending on where the Starfire computer shows them to be situated. If a unit in a fire station does not acknowledge the run within 30 seconds, the computer will notify the voice alarm dispatcher who will call that unit in the station by the dedicated intercom system. One minute after the alarm is released, it will appear on the computer screen of the radio dispatcher, who will announce the alarm and the response two times and ask for acknowledgment from any units assigned who have not done so by radio, voice alarm or MDT. The radio dispatcher has a special keyboard called the Status Entry Panel "SEP" which he uses to update the status of units based on information he receives by radio.

The entire process from initial notification until a unit is dispatched can take up to two (2) minutes, depending on the complexity of the call, the information provided by the caller(s) and the degree of other alarm activity in the office. If a borough alarm office is so busy that its incoming telephone alarm lines are all busy or not answered within 30 seconds, the call is automatic transferred to another borough fire alarm office. If an ERS box is not answered with 60 seconds, usually because all of the Alarm receipt Consoles are in use, the computer automatically dispatches an engine company to the box location.

Any fire alarm office in NYC can take a fire or emergency call by telephone for any borough and upon completion of information taking, the incident will automatically be routed by the Starfire computer to the Decision Dispatcher (DD) for the borough in which the incident is reported.

Alarm Receiving and Transmittal

There are five ways in which fires can be reported in New York City:

  1. Telephone Alarms: This is the most common method in which a civilian uses a telephone to dial one of three numbers, including 9-1-1, which is answered by the NYPD. There is also a special 7-digit telephone number published in each borough for the specific purpose of reporting fires. Lastly, dialing "0" routes the call through a telephone company operator which can transfer the call to the FDNY Communications Offices.
  2. Alarm Boxes: The second most common method is by means of F.D.N.Y. fire alarm boxes in the street and in certain public buildings such as schools and hospitals as well as highways, bridges, etc. These consist of the following primarily two types. The first is mechanical boxes, also commonly called pull-boxes or telegraph boxes in which a spring-wound mechanism alternately opens and closes an electrical circuit thereby rendering a coded number linked to the specific location of the box. Until the advent of the STARFIRE Computer-Assisted Dispatch System (CAD), dispatchers had to physically count the taps from mechanical boxes when they were received in the central offices. Today, a "Box Alarm Readout System" (B.A.R.S.) display handles that aspect of the job. The second type is the "Emergency Reporting System" (E.R.S.) boxes that are equipped with buttons to notify either FDNY or NYPD, allowing either department's dispatcher to have direct voice communication with a reporting party. E.R.S. boxes began to replace mechanical boxes in many areas of the City beginning in the 1970s.
  3. "Class 3" Alarms: Less common than the other two means of reporting fires are so-called "Class 3's" which are routed through commercial alarm companies. These firms monitor sprinkler systems, standpipes, smoke detectors and internal pull-stations in non-public spaces such as factories, warehouses, stores, and office buildings. When alarms are received from such accounts, these companies pass the information to the FDNY communications offices, usually by dedicated telephone circuits.
  4. Verbal Alarms: Refers to an instance in which a civilian verbally reports a fire directly to a firehouse. The personnel in the station will attempt to investigate, or immediately respond to the incident. The house-watch (firefighter on front desk duty) will call the borough dispatcher to advise that they are responding on a verbal alarm and will describe the nature of the incident as reported. The dispatchers will then transmit an appropriate response for the incident based on the description from the firehouse.
  5. Radio Alarms: This is an alarm given over FDNY radio to dispatchers from any member of the uniform force of the fire department, be it a firefighter or the Fire Commissioner. Most often these come from engines, ladders and battalion chiefs who are in the field, but they have been called in by fire marshals, chaplains and on at least one occasion, by the late Fire Commissioner and Chief of Department, John T. O'Hagan.

When a member of the public dials "911" they speak with an NYPD 911 operator who assigns the call to where it needs to go based on the information provided.

  • If it is police related, the information is sent to an NYPD radio dispatcher for the precinct or special unit concerned.
  • If it is on an interstate bridge or in a port or other body of water, the Port Authority of NY and NJ is notified.
  • If it is a fire, hazmat, or rescue incident, the NYPD 911 operator transfers the call by dedicated phone line to the appropriate FDNY borough fire alarm office. However, the NYPD may notify their own ESU division to respond. The FDNY also answers a few direct EMS calls, but most go by telephone directly to the FDNY EMS central office. EMS alarms that require a first responder will be computer switched to the appropriate borough fire alarm office, for an appropriate apparatus response.

Box Numbers

Each address in the city is assigned a box number, based on the closest street, special building or highway box. This gives the companies en route cross streets for the alarm. Box numbers can be duplicated in different boroughs, which is why they are always identified by borough name or numerical prefix on the computer (66 for Bronx and Manhattan, 77 for Brooklyn, 88 for Staten Island and 99 for Queens). If there is also a street address given to the dispatchers, the responding apparatus will get this information in the firehouse, over the air, and via their mobile data terminals in the rigs. At present there are about 16,000 physical street boxes in New York City, with many additional special building boxes and highway boxes, as well as "dummy boxes" used for special response assignments. In addition there are two airport crash boxes, one in the LaGuardia Tower (Queens Box 37) and one in the JFK Tower (Queens Box 269), which can only be activated by the personnel in these towers. When either box is sounded it brings an automatic second alarm (2-2) response of equipment, along with various special units.

Critical Information Dispatch System

CIDS stands for Critical Information Dispatch System, and is pronounced by the dispatcher as "Sids". CIDS information which is transmitted to units in the firehouse and en route is information that is collected on a building during inspections and by public input, which would have an impact on fire-fighting operations. Such things as:

  • warehoused apartments,
  • type and length of line stretch (or hose),
  • number of apartments per floor,
  • unsafe conditions, standpipe conditions, and
  • anything else the Bureau of Fire Communications or the FDNY Staff Chiefs deem important

This information is printed on the fire ticket and can be read by the dispatcher if requested. This information is also read automatically when a signal 10-75 (working fire) or higher signal is given or when the supervising dispatcher deems it is important for the units to have it before arrival at an incident.

Alarm Levels

A Signal 10-75 is transmitted by the first arriving fire company for a working fire or other incident where it appears that the assigned companies will likely all be put to work at a fire or other emergency. Contrary to belief a 10-75 can be transmitted where the emergency is non-fire related but appears to require a full first alarm assignment. When a 10-75 is given a Rescue Company and a Squad Company are automatically assigned, unless they went on the box. In addition a third and fourth engine company as well as a second truck company and a F.A.S.T. truck (ladder company) are assigned, along with an additional battalion chief. Notification is made to the deputy (division) chief for the district, and he almost always asks for a fire ticket and starts his response.

When All Companies are put to work, the Signal 7-5 is transmitted over the Starfire computer system, but on the radio the listener will simply hear the terms "All Hands" or "All Companies at Work (or Working)". If the All Hands is in a subway or railroad facility, or any other location where communications might be difficult, a Field Communications Units is sent. A Deputy Chief is mandatorily assigned on transmission of the Signal 7-5, but he almost always has responded on the 10-75 signal.

Special calls for additional units above a Signal 7-5 are by number and type of unit. A Dispatcher's greater alarm, formerly used to fill out special call requests during busy periods of fire activity, has been eliminated from dispatch procedures.

Higher alarms bring additional ladders, engines and special equipment, depending on location and type of incident. Greater alarms are a Second (Signal 2-2), a Third (3-3) and Fourth (4-4) and a Fifth (5-5). Technically there are no alarms greater than a Fifth Alarm and no computer signals exists for them. If a chief asks for a sixth or higher alarm, it has to be written out as such in the computer and companies are assigned by the Supervising Dispatcher of the Tour. Borough calls and simultaneous calls, previously used for incidents that required more than a five alarm assignment, have been eliminated from dispatch procedures.

There are also certain special signals given for unique incidents. Several of them include:

Alarm Type Meaning
10-60 Declared as a major incident, it brings a major response of equipment to the scene and mandates transmission of next highest alarm
10-66 The newest signal, this is used for missing firefighters at an incident. It mandates the transmission of the next higher alarm level. It was first used at the August 2007 fatal fire in the Deutsche Bank Building, where a number of firefighters got lost in an illegal maze of demolition and asbestos removal structures, and where two veteran firemen were killed.
10-80 Hazardous Materials incident
10-76 Working fire in a high-rise (more than 7 stories) commercial building or hotel.
10-77 Working fire in a high-rise (more than 7 stories) residential building.

Any or all of these signals (10-76, 10-77, 10-60, 10-66 and 10-80) can be used in conjunction with a 10-75, and All Hands or a greater alarm, depending on circumstances. For example, at the aforementioned Deutsche Bank Building Fatal Fire in 2007, Seven Alarms were struck in addition to the use of the 10-76, 10-66 and 10-80 signals. The 2007 Manhattan Steampipe explosion utilized Six alarms, plus the 10-60 and 10-80 signals. If a 10-66 is transmitted as the result of a collapse, a 10-60 must also be transmitted; this will result in the next 2 higher alarms being transmitted (1 addtl alarm for each signal).

Bureau of EMS

Calls to 911 for emergency medical services (EMS) in New York City are dispatched by the New York City Fire Department's Emergency Medical Dispatch under its Communications Bureau.

Ambulances are staffed by uniformed service EMTs and paramedics of the FDNY or civilian EMTs and paramedics working for non-profit, 'voluntary' hospitals. It is the largest public, non-profit ambulance partnership in the world.[26]

Prior to March 17, 1996, municipal ambulances were operated by NYC EMS under the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation a public benefit corporation, which dispatched both its own ambulances and hospital ambulances. After that date, NYC EMS was merged with the FDNY and became the Bureau of EMS. Presently it is referred to as the FDNY-EMS Command and is an operational unit of the FDNY which operates under the Chief of EMS, who in turn reports to the Chief of Department.

FDNY-EMS respond to more than 1.2 million medical emergencies per year, or 3300 per day.[26] Although EMS in New York City is controlled and dispatched by the Fire Department, approximately 40% of the ambulances in the system are operated by the non-profit hospitals in New York City, the majority of these being in Manhattan and Queens. These hospitals have historically provided emergency ambulances for over 125 years, with some now subcontracting actual ambulance operations to private ambulance providers.[27] New York City also has a number of neighborhood volunteer ambulance corps that respond to emergency calls, primarily in the outer boroughs.

The New York City prehospital care system consists of three distinct levels: First responder engine companies, staffed by firefighters trained as Certified First Responders (CFRs) providing first aid, CPR, and defibrillation; basic life support (BLS) ambulances, whose two EMTs provide first aid, defibrillation, and limited medication administration; and advanced life support (ALS) ambulances, whose two paramedics provide prehospital critical care, including patient assessment, 12-lead electrocardiography, pulse oximetry, defibrillation, cardioversion, cardiac pacing, endotracheal intubation and other advanced airway procedures; intravenous (IV), interosseous (IO), intramuscular (IM), oral (PO) and respiratory therapy, with over 40 medications both under standing medical orders and in consultation with a medical control physician. Each area of response is divided into overlapping grids, with the closest FDNY first responder engine company dispatched to life-threatening emergencies, along with both a BLS and ALS level ambulance as necessary.[28]

Some EMTs and paramedics have been trained as Hazardous Materials Technicians and function to provide patient care while wearing Chemical Protective Clothing in the 'Hot Zone' at HazMat incidents. Recently, all of FDNY-EMS's EMTs and paramedics have been trained to the Hazardous Materials Operations level in order to operate in the 'Warm Zone' of HazMat incidents. Some of the HazMat trained paramedics have been trained at the FDNY Fire Academy as 'Rescue Medics' in order to be able to provide patient care in both high-rise rescue and confined space situations.[29]

While EMTs and paramedics work well professionally with the firefighters of New York City, there have been occasional "culture clashes" between EMS and Fire, for instance, a plan in 2006 to move ambulances into a firehouse in Queens drew an outcry from both the unions of the firefighters and EMS workers and was ultimately scrapped by the city.[30] This is due to several factors, the relative little attention paid to the sacrifices and achievements of EMS workers by the public in relation to that paid to firefighters, as well as the separate mindset that each respective job entails; firefighters must operate as a team and strictly and swiftly execute the orders they are given by their officers to achieve their goals, while EMT and paramedic crews are expected to act independently and usually without direct supervision by their EMT and paramedic officers or medical control physicians, in most cases, due to the nature of the job.[citation needed]


FDNY Engine 6, a newer Seagrave pumper which replaced the older apparatus which was destroyed on 9/11/2001. The names of the four Engine 6 firefighters lost that day are written on the front door.

In recent years, FDNY has used several fire apparatus manufacturers nearly exclusively. Beginning in the late 1970s, Mack and American LaFrance made most of the pumpers and ladder trucks in the FDNY fleet. In the late 1980s, Mack made only chassis and not apparatus bodies, so Ward was used for truck bodies. Often Mack would work with Baker Aerialscope to create its tower ladders. Mack left the fire apparatus business in the early 1990s and FDNY turned to Seagrave to develop its next generation of fire truck. FDNY's very specific specifications meant that few apparatus manufacturers could compete with Seagrave for the contract.

Most of the engines in FDNY's fleet are Seagrave Commander II's and Seagrave Marauder II's and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1000 or 2000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2000gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a "Split-Tilt" cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY's new order for 69 new pumpers.

Truck companies are generally equipped with Seagrave aerials. Ladder length varies and often depends on the geographic area to which the unit is assigned. Those in the older sections of the city often use tiller trucks to allow for greater maneuverability. Before Seagrave was the predominant builder, Mack CF's built with Baker tower ladders were popular. Most FDNY aerials are built with 75’, 95' or 100' ladders. Tiller ladders, rear mount ladders and mid-mount tower ladders are the types of trucks used.

For specialty units, FDNY uses a variety of manufacturers. Its current heavy rescues, often called a 'toolbox on wheels' are made by Pierce (Rescue 1) and E-One/Saulsbury (Rescues 2-5). Other specialty units, including hazardous material units, collapse trucks, and reserve rescues are made by American LaFrance, Pierce, E-One,Freightliner,and Ferrara (HAZMAT 1). Various body types include standard heavy rescue bodies, step vans, busses and smaller units built on GMC and Ford pick up truck bodies.

FDNY battalion and division chiefs as well as EMS supervisors operate with Ford Excursions which are soon to start being replaced by GMC pick-up trucks with caps and roll out trays in the bed.[31] EMS division chiefs use Crown Victorias.

The ambulances used by FDNY EMS are usually manufactured by Horton Ambulance, and the modules are generally mounted on Ford F-350 light duty truck chassis. When NYC EMS merged with the FDNY in 1996, the ambulances had their orange stripe replaced with a red, and they were manufactured by Wheeled Coach, again on Ford F-350 chassis. Some of the older ambulances were mounted on Chevrolet 3500 chassis.

In addition to its engine, truck, and rescue companies, FDNY operates three fireboats as Marine Companies:

A former FDNY Marine Unit, the John J. Harvey, is notable as having returned to active service as Marine 2 on September 11, 2001 and providing firefighting services for 80 hours following the attack.[32]

Fireboat Three Forty Three is currently being built to replace The John D. McKean as Marine 1.

Union representation

The Department's lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA), while regular firefighters and fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), both of which are locals of the International Association of Fire Fighters.[33] Fire Alarm Dispatchers are represented by the Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association. EMTs, paramedics and fire protection inspectors are represented by the Uniformed EMTs & Paramedics and EMS officers are represented by the Uniform EMS Officers Union, both of which are locals of District Council 37.[34]

FDNY in film and television

The New York City Fire Department has appeared in numerous films and television shows in recent years. One of the earliest was the 1972 documentary Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning, for BBC Television. It was screened in the United Kingdom on September 27, 1972 and followed firefighters from a fire house in the South Bronx: Battalion 27, Ladder 31 and Engine 82. It chronicled the appalling conditions the firefighters worked in with roughly one emergency call per hour, and the high rates of arson and malicious calls.[35]

The documentary focused heavily on firefighter Dennis Smith who served in the South Bronx area and went on to write Report from Engine Co. 82 and a number of other books. He has become a prominent speaker on firefighting policy.[36]

In 1991, brothers Brian Hickey, a New York City firefighter and his brother Raymond produced a documentary entitled Firefighters: Brothers in Battle.[37] The film features footage of fires and rescues throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including the infamous Happy Land Social Club fire which killed 87 persons, dramatic rescues from a crashed airplane off of La Guardia Airport, and footage and interviews at Medal Day 1991. Unfortunately, Raymond died of cancer in 1993 and Brian was killed on September 11, 2001 while operating at the World Trade Center.[38] Brian last served as Captain of Rescue Company 4 in Queens.

The 2002 documentary film 9/11 features the September 11, 2001 attacks from the perspective of then probationary firefighter Tony Benetatos and the members of Ladder 1/Engine 7 on Duane street in Manhattan.[39] Two other documentaries include the 2005 film Brotherhood: Life in the FDNY, which focuses on Squad 252 in Brooklyn, Rescue 1 in Manhattan and Rescue 4 in Queens. A 2007 short film titled 343 was made by director Stephen Philip Donnelly in remembrance of the 343 firefighters killed on the 9/11 attacks.

Television series about FDNY have included Rescue Me, which began airing in 2004 and depicts the fictional life of firefighters in an FDNY firehouse.[40] The NBC drama Third Watch ran from 1999 to 2005 and provided a fictionalized and dramatized depiction of the firefighters and paramedics of the FDNY and police officers of the New York City Police Department.

See also


  1. ^ a b New York'S Bravest
  2. ^ "9 Metrotech Center - FDNY Headquaters." Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. Retrieved on November 5, 2009.
  3. ^ "FDNY Photo Unit: Images of Heroes". Fire Department of New York. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  4. ^ "FDNY Fire Operations response on September 11" (PDF). Fire Department of New York. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  5. ^ a b "History of Fire Service". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  6. ^ "Dutch Colonization". National Parks Service. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  7. ^ a b "Heroes of Ground Zero; FDNY: A History". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  8. ^ LINDSAY SELECTS A NEGRO TO HEAD FIRE DEPARTMENT; Lowery, Democrat, Will Be First of His Race to Hold That Commissionership - New York Times - Page 1 - November 24, 1965
  9. ^ ""We Have Some Planes"". National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  10. ^ a b Fritsch, Jane (September 12, 2001). "A Day of Terror - The Response: Rescue Workers Rush In, and Many Do Not Return". New York Times. 
  11. ^ Kevin Baker, "A Fate Worse than Bush: Rudy Giuliani and the Politics of Personality," Harpers, August 2007, p. 37, citing Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Times Books, 2002)
  12. ^ New York City Fire Department officers who died in the World Trade Center attack [1]
  13. ^ Dean E. Murphy (September 17, 2001). "Honoring the Rescuers". New York Times. 
  14. ^ Kevin Flynn and Jim Dwyer (August 3, 2002). "FIRE DEPT. LAPSES ON 9/11 ARE CITED". New York Times. 
  15. ^ "The Great Northeast Blackout of 2003" (Powerpoint). Deputy Assistant Chief John Norman, FDNY. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  16. ^ - 1870
  17. ^ NYC Fire Museum - History of the FDNY
  18. ^ The 11th New York Volunteer Infantry - First Fire Zouaves
  19. ^ Mayor of New York Press Release PR- 291-04 November 3, 2004
  20. ^ FDNY Firefighters Hunks Calendars February 13, 2009
  21. ^ FDNY - EMS History
  22. ^ Griffiths (2007), pp. 210
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b "I Am FDNY EMS". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  27. ^ "FDNY EMS/Participating Member/911 Ambulance". Urban Medical Systems of New York City, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  28. ^ "The Threats to Effective and Timely EMS Service in the City of New York". NYC EMS Authority: p. Online. February 7, 2007. 
  29. ^ "FDNY Deploys Rescue Trained Paramedics". Journal of Emergency Medical Services. 
  30. ^ "FDNY Again Seeks Fire/EMS Blending". The Chief-Leader. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Historic Fireboat Aids in New York City Response and Recovery at World Trade Center". National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  33. ^ Donna De La Cruz. "FDNY Union Leaders Surrender After Protest". Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  34. ^ "EMT and Paramedic Frequently Asked Questions". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  35. ^ "Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  36. ^ "". Dennis Smith. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  37. ^ "F.D.N.Y.: Brothers in Battle (1992)". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  38. ^ "FDNY Captain Brian Hickey". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  39. ^ "9/11 (2002) TV". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  40. ^ "Denis Leary plays with fire on ‘Rescue Me’". 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 


  • Boucher, Micheal L.; Urbanowicz, Gary R.; Melhan, Fred B., Jr. (2006) The Last Alarm: The History and Tradition of Supreme Sacrifice in the Fire Departments of New York M.T. Publishing, Inc., Evansville, Indiana
  • Costello, Augustine E. (1887) Our Firemen: A History of the New York Fire Departments, Volunteer and Paid. New York, New York: Costello
  • Daly, Charles P. (1871) On the Origin and History of the New York Fire Department. New York, New York: Unknown
  • Dunshee, Kenneth H. (1939) Enjine!~Enjine! Harold Vincent Smith for the Home Insurance Company, New York, New York
  • Dunshee, Kenneth H. (1952) As You Pass By Hastings House Publishers, New York, New York
  • FDNY Vital Statistics, FY 2008
  • Griffiths, John L. (2007). Fire Department of New York - an Operational Reference. New York, New York: Griffiths.
  • Urbanowicz, Gary R. (2002) Badges of the Bravest: A Pictorial History of Fire Departments in New York City. Turner Publishing, Inc., Paducah, KY

External links

Official websites
Other websites


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