The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) is widely regarded as one of the most proficient emergency response departments in the world. The FDNY is made up of over 11,000 uniformed firefighters and more than 4,274 civilian employees, all of whom work out of 248 firehouses across the five boroughs. These firehouses play a critical role in the city’s emergency response operations, serving as the base of operations for FDNY firefighters and emergency personnel who respond to countless incidents across the city.
Each firehouse is home to one or more companies. Each company is commanded by an officer, typically a lieutenant or captain. Each company is staffed with four to five firefighters for engine companies, five firefighters for ladder companies, rescue companies, or squad companies, and six firefighters for hazardous materials companies. The city’s firehouses are located strategically to ensure that emergency personnel can respond quickly to incidents in their assigned districts. This allows them to provide timely intervention and help minimize the amount of damage caused by an incident.
Firehouses also serve as community landmarks and reflect the city’s rich history. Many feature striking architectural features, including ornate stone finishes and intricate ironwork that give them a stately appearance. These iconic structures are often seen in movies, television shows, and books that depict life in the FDNY. For example, the 2002 Sesame Street video Elmo Visits the Firehouse follows a day in the life of members of Engine 7/Ladder 1 and Battalion 1. In addition to being the home for firefighting equipment and personnel, firehouses actively engage with their communities through open houses and community events. These events allow residents to meet firefighters and learn about fire safety.
FDNY firefighters and emergency personnel regularly face unique challenges that are not found anywhere else in the country. These include responding to building types that range from wood-frame single family homes to high-rise buildings, secluded bridges and tunnels, the New York City subway system, and large parks with dense foliage that can pose fire hazards. The FDNY also frequently responds to medical emergencies, hazardous material incidents, auto accidents, construction accidents, high-angle rescues, confined space incidents, and transit incidents.
The FDNY’s paramilitary organizational structure enables it to effectively coordinate and respond to these incidents from its 248 firehouses. This is facilitated by the city’s centralized dispatch system, which uses firehouse telephones to receive reports from citizens and other agencies. The FDNY also uses radio communications to communicate with firehouses in their respective areas. These communications systems are augmented by verbal alarms, which are reported by FDNY firefighters, civilian employees of the Department (e.g., EMS Bureau personnel, NYPD personnel), and other FDNY officers (e.g., commissioners, medical officers, chaplains). This enables the FDNY to respond promptly to incidents as they occur. Moreover, it ensures that all FDNY resources are available for the response to any emergency call. The FDNY’s response efficiency, coupled with its commitment and expertise, contribute significantly to the City’s resilience.