A new report released yesterday from the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) blasts the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) for failing to meet the service needs of the citizens of the city by only allocating 13% of their budget to handle 75% of the call volume.
New York, NY – December 9, 2015 – The Citizens Budget Commission today released a report that reveals the New York City Fire Department responds primarily to medical emergencies, not fires. The report – titled “Twenty Years Later: Integrating Services in the New York City Fire Department” – calls for bold action to enhance the Department’s response to medical emergencies.
Of the 1.2 million incidents to which FDNY vehicles responded in 2014, 75 percent were medical incidents– compared to only 5 percent fire-related incidents. Since 1998, the first year for which comparable data are available post-merger, the number of fire-related incidents declined 49 percent over the period; in contrast, the volume of medical emergencies to which the FDNY responded increased by more than one-third. The number of medical incidents to which the FDNY responded (879,298) was about 15 times that of fire-related incidents (61,952) and more than 30 times that of structural fires (26,531).
Despite the preponderance of medical incidents and the continued decline in fire incidents, most of the department’s resources– 71 percent of the $3.8 billion budget and two-thirds of personnel– are devoted to staffing fire units. EMS operations are just 13 percent of the budget. The FDNY has addressed the mismatch between incidents and resources by training and requiring firefighters to respond to certain medical emergencies. Nevertheless, the workloads of the two major service divisions differ notably, and the current arrangement is costly and redundant.
None of what the CBC says in the report is really anything new. For that matter, back in 2011 I stressed the need for departments such as FDNY to change their mindset from “Fire based EMS service” to an “EMS based Fire service” in order to meet the needs and demands of the communities.
The CBC made a number of recommendations which, once again, none of which are really new. Splitting Paramedics up so that it is one Paramedic and one EMT per ambulance (aka “Mensa Medic” units), requiring firefighters to become EMTs, and a full reorganization of the department… like the one that was supposed to happen in 1996 when FDNY absorbed NYC EMS from the Health & Hospitals Corporation. One glaring omission from the suggestions offered by the CBC was the contracting of private ambulance for low priority calls, which is exactly what Washington DC is doing to combat their service issues.