Peter Kolesar

Improving the deployment of New York City fire companies

Coauthor(s): Edward Ignall, Arthur Swersey, Warren Walker, Edward Blum, Grace Carter, Homer Bishop.


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How many fire companies does New York City need and where should they be located? Given a fire alarm of unknown severity, how many companies should be dispatched to it? These two questions are fundamental issues in the deployment of the City's fire-fighting resources.

Since 1968, the New York City Fire Department and The New York City-Rand Institute have carried out a joint project to improve the delivery of Fire Department services in the face of skyrocketing demand. In November 1972, two historical deployment changes were implemented: (a) six of the 375 fire companies in the City were disbanded and seven other companies were permanently relocated; and (b) in high fire incidence areas of the City, an adaptive response policy was implemented. Under adaptive response, fewer companies are initially dispatched to potentially less serious alarms. This is in contrast to the traditional dispatching policy where the same number of companies are dispatched to each alarm.

The joint Fire Department-Rand Institute project and the analyses which led to these and other improvements and the wide range of mathematical models used are described. The changes have resulted in savings to the Fire Department of over $5 million per year, a reduction in the workload of fire companies and a more equitable distribution of fire companies throughout the City.

Source: Interfaces
Exact Citation:
Ignall, Edward, Peter Kolesar, Arthur Swersey, Warren Walker, Edward Blum, Grace Carter, and Homer Bishop. "Improving the deployment of New York City fire companies." Interfaces 5, no. 2 (February 1975): 48-61.
Volume: 5
Number: 2
Pages: 48-61
Date: 2 1975