Firefighting

Fire Department Performance Management: Is Public Policy on the Map?

Issue 8 and Volume 165.

BY KAT SONIA THOMSON In the 1970s, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) infamously embarked on a reduction in fire companies that largely fell on the shoulders of the communities suffering from the greatest number of fires in the city.1 In 2003 and again in 2011, the FDNY, by and large, repeated this policy by placing cuts, planning additional cuts, and reducing staffing in the areas of the city that suffer the highest levels of structural fire loss, civilian casualty rates, and medical incidents. This article explains the underlying policy trade-off that takes place in the case of fire department allocation decisions by comparing the budget cuts in New York City (NYC) in the 1970s and those of today. One of the biggest surprises of NYC’s fire department resource allocation process is the remarkable lack of empirical research and analysis on the parts of the FDNY, the Mayor’s Office,…

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