FDNY Dispatch Policy
From time to time, I receive queries asking for the FDNY response to certain alarm types. It is difficult to put into a simple web page what takes us 4 weeks of classroom training to memorize. Therefore, what follows below is a basic description of typical alarms.
Before I proceed I must define the term "transmit the box" as it is used by us. This term is a holdover from when we transmitted signals by telegraph. When the central office received an alarm, we would transmit that box by telegraph to the firehouses in the area. The units receiving that transmission would look at the alarm assignment card (also called run cards) to see who is to respond. Only the first two due engines, first two due ladders, and first due battalion chief respond to this signal. If any of those units are not available at the time of the transmission, that number of units reduces the alarm response, except for battalion chiefs. One chief must respond to all box transmissions.
For example, the first two due engines and ladders to Brooklyn box 4106 are E309, E323, L159, and L157. If all of these units are available, the response is 2 + 2. If, however, L159 is on another run, the response is now 2 + 1. If none of the first two due units is available, the minimum response is 2 + 1 from as far down the alarm assignment card as we have to go to find an available unit.
In 2008 the response was changed. Transmitting the box will result in a dispatch of 3 engines, 2 ladders and a battalion chief, down to a minimum of 3 and 1.
In 2015 the response was again changed for a minimum response of 3 engines, 2 ladders, and a battalion chief except for gas leaks which will get only 2 engines, 2 ladders, and a chief.
The entire dispatch policy fills several volumes of 3-ring binders in the office. To fully describe them here would consume too much space on my server so here it is in a nutshell:
Response to Certain 10 Codes and Signals
All of the above numbers are what the total response is filled out to. (i.e. 8 engines on a second alarm means the 4 that were already there plus 4 more.)
There are dozens of specialized responses for certain situations like: building collapses; water/SCUBA jobs; incidents on highways, bridges, and tunnels; haz-mat incidents; leaks from burried gas pipelines; tank farms; hi angle rescues; fires in high rise buildings.
Just as there are a million stories in the naked city, so too are there a million responses (figuratively speaking). These are just a few of them.