Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

New York’s Bravest may become New York’s Smartest

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has an impressive mission - ensure they are doing everything they can to keep the citizens of New York City (and themselves) safe and respond as quickly as possible to fires or other emergencies in the city's 800,000 buildings.

The FDNY's use of information and analytics to help prevent fires - and equally important to keep firefighters safe -  is featured today on the homepage.

As described in more detail on IBM Smarter Planet's New Intelligence website, the FDNY not only has had to deal with fighting fires, but also fighting a lack of information and informed answers that can make a big difference in a life-and-death setting.

In a culture where first responders are heroes, today even firefighters receive little acknowledgement for prevention.... Interconnected systems, instrumented buildings and intelligent analysis could have given the FDNY more information to save the lives of both citizens and firefighters. "We need to develop our capacity to be better prepared," [Bill Eimicke, deputy fire commissioner] said. "The information is there, but we can't access it before we go out."

Yet despite their dedication and honed instincts, these firefighters—"New York's Bravest," as New Yorkers often call them—too often find themselves fighting an opponent tougher than fire: a lack of information and, even more important during the split seconds inside a burning building, of informed answers.

For example, if the FDNY had better access to important information about a building—such as the materials used in its construction—the department could respond to emergencies better, help prevent problems from occurring during those emergencies and even prevent the emergencies in the first place.

As a client of IBM's Business Analytics and Optimization services, the FDNY is building the capability to pool information from disparate sources—including the many federal, state and city agencies that also inspect buildings in New York—and deliver it from a new command center to its people in the field as the information becomes available, says the deputy commissioner.

"The information is out there, but we need to be able to not just find risks, but prioritize them and not just assess them," Bill Eimicke says. "I'd like to change the orientation of the department from 'first responders' to prevention."

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