HAWTHORNE, N.Y.-With the help of analytics and optimization services, the New York City Fire Department could move from not only being strong in a first responder capability to being better equipped at preventing casualties from occurring.
William Eimicke, deputy commissioner of the FDNY, spoke at an event at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center here and said there are two things he would like to see FDNY do. One is to "put remote devices in the field to all our inspection personnel," which it will begin to do next year. And the second thing is "to change the orientation of our department from first responder to prevention." Yet, Eimicke noted that "changing the culture will be difficult."
However, with the help of things like the new IBM Business Analytics and Optimization Services consulting practice, FDNY can find assistance in reaching Eimicke's goals more quickly. IBM announced its new consulting practice at the aforementioned company event on April 14.
Indeed, Eimicke said FDNY is a long way toward what he wants. And that is "a centralized database that seamlessly accesses information from other city agencies and utilities like ConEd [Consolidated Edison], and feeds it into our own organization. The database is there and it needs to grow. The information sharing is there, but it needs to grow ... and become more seamless and automatic."
Eimicke called 9/11 "one of the greatest rescue operations in the history of the world." He noted that more than 25,000 people were rescued, but at the same time the FDNY lost more than 360 members of its force.
"We need to develop our capacity to be better prepared," Eimicke said. "The information is there, but we can't access it before we go out."
But this same information can help prevent casualties, he said. For instance, if the FDNY had access to key information about buildings, such as what materials were used in construction and other factors, the department could be better equipped not only to respond to an emergency, but also to help prevent problems from occurring. This process starts with inspections.
"There are 800,000 building in New York City," Eimicke said. The sheer number of buildings makes it prohibitive for FDNY to inspect every building. But other municipal, state and federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the New York City Housing Authority and others, also inspect buildings in the city. "And we can't access all that information," he said.
Meanwhile, "we have built a command center in our department where we can deliver information to the folks in the field as we get more information," Eimicke said. "We do not want the situation of inadequate information and the ability to deliver it."