For Release February 29, 2016|
New York City is significantly underreporting average response times to fires and other emergencies, in some cases by up to 92 percent, according to a bombshell analysis released today by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA).
The report by the UFA, which represents New York City’s rank-and-file firefighters, found that actual response times to structural fires citywide in 2015 was 20 percent longer than what the city advertises; 57 percent longer for non-fire emergencies such as gas leaks, buildings collapses, explosions and other disasters; and a whopping 81 percent longer for medical emergencies.
In individual boroughs, many of the numbers were even starker: Non-fire emergency responses were 49 percent longer than what the city spotlights in Manhattan and 60 percent longer in Brooklyn. Those suffering medical emergencies waited 85 percent longer than what is advertised in Brooklyn and 92 percent longer in the Bronx.
True Call-to-Curb Response Measurement:
The city promotes the average response time to structural fires as 4:11, below the nationally accepted standard of five minutes or less. In reality, that time is 5:00 citywide for structural fires. For non-structural fires, the actual citywide response time is 6:03, compared with the highlighted 4:30, and for medical emergencies it is 8:11, compared with the reported figure of 4:31.
The reason for the discrepancy is that for years the city did not “start the clock” on measuring response times until a 911 emergency call was given to the FDNY. This method did not count the time – often several minutes – a caller spent speaking to an initial 911 dispatcher.
A 2012 report by the Winbourne Consulting Group, commissioned by the Bloomberg Administration, found that such measurements do not conform to industry best practices. The UFA sued the city and won the release of the then-top secret report. A law passed the following year (Local Law 119) requires the city to report true response times.
However, on the FDNY web site, under the “fire statistics” category, yearly and monthly reports still use the old, discredited measurement. In order to find the true numbers, a member of the public and media would have to click through to a tab obscurely labeled “Local Law 119 Compliance.” This section has no other marker identifying it as the accurate reporting of emergency response times.
In a March 2016 white paper – FDNY @ 150: Busier Than Ever - the UFA compared the accurate numbers for 2014 and 2015 to what is spotlighted by the city and found significant underreporting in every category and in every borough.
Firefighters also find troubling that even the more accurate figures still only measure the “call to curb” times, or the time between when the 911 call is first answered and when firefighters arrive at the curb outside a building. If an emergency is on the fifth, 20th or 40th floor, many more minutes will elapse before first responders reach the apartment or building floor where the victims are located.
“As construction in this city continues to boom and our population soars, we are adding more and more skyscrapers and packing more and more people into buildings,” Cassidy said. “In a vertical city such as New York, is a measurement of call to curb sufficient? The city needs to factor emergency response coverage into all future zoning and development plans, so further growth is not putting the people who live and work in this city at greater risk.”
The discrepancies in reported response times come even as New York City Firefighters are responding to more emergencies than at any other time in the Department’s history. In 2015, firefighters responded to 581,981 calls, a 12 percent jump over 2014 and a combined 21 percent increase over 2013. In fact, the 10 busiest years in the FDNY’s history have all occurred since 2005, a clear sign of continuing growth.
In 2015, structural fires were up 3.3 percent over 2014; non-structural fires were up 16.5 percent; and medical emergencies were up 16.8 percent.
Since 1990, there has been a 62 percent increase in emergency responses by firefighters; a 121 percent increase since 1970 and an astounding 518 percent jump since 1960.
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