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New York City Fire Department cutbacks loom

Cutbacks loom for New York City's Fire Department. The mayor and City Council have approved a budget that provides for elimination of 20 fire companies on July 1.

This means that response times are inevitably going to rise when firefighters and emergency medical personnel are called to fires, car crashes, construction accidents and the rest of the wide variety of calamities and mishaps that can strike a city of this size.

"The budget comes from the City Council and the mayor's office," said FDNY operations chief Robert Sweeney. "Our job is to do the best we can with that. No one here wants to close fire companies, but if we have to, we think this is the best way to do it."

According to New York magazine, FDNY has chosen to use a straightforward method of deciding which fire companies to close. The department has looked at response times of first-due, second-due and third-due companies around the city. It has then calculated which company cuts would have the least negative impact on response times, after adjusting for the number of runs each makes and their locations and so on.

In that way, they came up with a list of fire companies with the fewest runs and softest impact on response times.

The last time the city was faced with such massive cuts to FDNY was back in the 1970s. Response time was then also the main criteria used to decide which companies to keep and which to drop. But the computer models supplied to the city were flawed, failing to take traffic conditions into account and how many runs fire companies were called on to make in a typical day.

As a result, wide swaths of poorer neighborhoods had subpar response times when fires broke out, car accidents took place, or people were hurt in unsafe buildings.

The city is apparently determined to avoid repeating that part of history as it makes cuts this year.

Source: New York magazine: "Faced With Cutbacks, the FDNY Tries to Avoid Mistakes of the Seventies": June 1, 2011

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