Tuesday, February 13, 2007

FDNY's New Strategic Plan

The Fire Department of New York has released its new Strategic Plan for 2007-2008, which extends on its earlier edition of 2004-2005.

The new plan identifies five key goal areas:

1. Improve Emergency Response Operations
2. Enhance the Health and Safety of FDNY Members
3. Strengthen Management and Organizational Development
4. Increase Diversity
5. Improve Fire Prevention and Safety Education
There's a lot to like about the plan, but I'll focus only on some elements of it; specifically, the planning for major incidents and terrorism (especially the preventive efforts).

As indicated by the plan's Goal #1 - "Improve Emergency Response Operations" - the department's plans are mostly focused on response rather than prevention. Many activities have been - and will continue to be - focused on improving the response to a potential future event, rather than preventing it:
To increase overall response capacity, [as a result of the 2004-2005 Strategic Plan] the Department successfully negotiated and finalized mutual-aid agreements with New York State and Nassau County to provide fire service mutual aid. FDNY also finalized agreements with New York City Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (REMSCO) for mutual aid within the City and a State-wide EMS Mobilization Plan with the State Department of Health, as well as with New Jersey. Lastly, the Department finalized all-hazards emergency response plans that address biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear and improvised explosive response, developed a risk assessment internal web site of designated priority locations and established an FDNY Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness.
It's good to see so many collaborative partnerships being developed, especially with other fire departments and EMS. But when I was reading the doc, I kept looking for collaboration with other first responders, such as the police. It's well-known that better communications between NYPD and FDNY on 9/11 probably would have saved lives. There are some indications of interagency information sharing, mostly focused on interoperable communications:
To facilitate the management and exchange of information, the Department continues to develop a Network Centric Command system. Network Centric Command, the integration of voice, data and video information through state-of-the-art technology, will assist the Incident Commander in decision-making during an incident. ... During an incident, Network Centric Command supports information-sharing among City, State and Federal agencies to provide a common operational picture. This integration will result in enhanced collaboration and synchronization of information to maximize an effective command.

Among the FDNY’s highest priority technology initiatives is the successful transformation of the Fire Department Operations Center (FDOC) that possesses new state-of-the-art capabilities to function as an off-site command post. Among the FDOC’s capabilities is video teleconferencing and on-scene video footage from media and police helicopters. The FDOC also has additional mapping capabilities and the ability to generate site-specific historical and hazard data from Department databases.
Interoperable communications are critical, of course - and first responders everywhere need them yesterday. But still, in the FDNY Strategic Plan, sharing information with other first responders seems to be primarily something that happens only in response to an event. Yet preventive efforts require critical information-sharing before an event. Is that part of the FDNY's plans? It's hard to say.

The FDNY does seem to have some forward-thinking, strategic plans for prevention. For instance, The Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness, established at Fort Totten in Queens, is an interesting project. The department has sponsored strategic anti-terrorism training for leaders at the site, which involves role-playing the part of a terrorist. What's less clear to me is, what's the follow-up to this training? How do the lessons of the training event become operationalized within the department? What preventive efforts are the FDNY leaders, at all levels, engaging in on a regular basis?

It's not clear in the Strategic Plan. For instance, where prevention does take focus, in Goal #5 - "
Improve Fire Prevention and Safety Education" - the FDNY's strategy mostly involves "typical" fire-prevention efforts such as community education, public presentations of fire prevention and safety information, producing fire safety documents in multiple languages, etc. When terrorism prevention is specifically mentioned, it's only an abstract future public-education project, focused on "awareness":
Explore the feasibility of developing an educational component with a focus on training the public on the topic of terrorism awareness.
Overall, it seems that prevention in the FDNY Strategic Plan has less focus than preparedness and response activities.


Jimmy Jazz said...


I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for your blogging. I've recently taken a position in public health emergency preparedness and have found that your insights have helped me be better at my job.

In response to this post, I've found that most everything that I've worked on has been response-oriented. Little is being done here in order to help alleviate the need for a response. My feeling is that this is basically a competition for limited resources, most notably time. Like I said, I'm still pretty new at this, so I hope that once an effective response has been developed a good bit of this energy will be devoted to prevention - but I wouldn't be surprised if I was out and out wrong.

Thanks again, and please keep up the good work.

John Bowen said...

Thanks for your kind note, Jimmy.

My thoughts on homeland security invariably tend toward prevention ("an ounce of...etc.")

But I understand that it's a natural tendency for first responders to think about "response first."

Thanks again,

PS: Nice moniker. Now I have the Clash going through my head. :)