By Akanksha A. Panicker
The New York City Fire Department is a New York City government department that delivers fire protection, technical rescue services, biological, chemical, and radioactive hazard responses, and emergency medical services.
The New York Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the United States and the world’s second-largest department after the Tokyo Fire Department. The Fire Department is regarded in its title 3 regulations that are compiled in New York City Rules. ‘New York’s Bravest’ for fire and ‘New York’s Best’ for EMS have remained the Department’s motto, with the FDNY officials providing community services to more than 8.5 million people.
[1.0] STRUCTURE OF THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT
As with most fire departments of key cities in the United States, the New York City Fire Department is structured in a paramilitary manner, which in many instances, resonates with the police department’s composition. The department’s executive staff comprises two parts that include a civilian Fire Commissioner who represents the department as its head and a Chief of Department who serves as the operational leader. The executive staff features several civilian deputy commissioners who become responsible for the various administrative bureaus inside the department, alongside the Chief of Department who serves as the overall director of the department and Chief of Fire Operations, Chief of EMS, Chief Fire Marshal, Chief of Training and other staff chiefs. Tour command (TC) is made up of the citywide tour commanders, Chief of Fire Prevention (CFP), and the Chief of Safety (COS.)
The department is split into five Borough Commands to monitor the New York City boroughs by geographical proximity. Each Borough Command has a Borough Commander. The Commander of Manhattan is an Assistant Chief, while the other Borough Commanders each carry Deputy Assistant Chief’s rank.
Each Borough Command includes nine firefighting Divisions, each led by a Deputy Chief, who also have numerous Deputy Chiefs to assist the Chief when they are not on duty. Each Division is made up of four to seven Battalion Chiefs who lead the Battalion. The spearhead over the Chiefs is the Battalion Commander, and his subordinates are Battalion Chiefs. Firefighting units consist of three to eight firehouses and 180–200 firefighters and officers, usually forming said battalion. Every firehouse comprises one to three companies; each fire company has a Captain who has three Lieutenants and contingent to twenty of their own.
[2.0] HOW TO SUBMIT A REQUEST
The Fire Department of the City of New York commonly provides the public with access to records in compliance with Federal, State, and NYC laws. Requested records may easily be acquired via New York City Process Service, mail, or online through open records but need to be accompanied with [A.] the forms that are needed to complete the process and [B.] a cheque or money order for applicable fees payable to ‘NYC Fire Department’ and [C.] a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
It must be noted that FOIL requests are different from subpoena requests. Subpoenas for the Fire Department need to be ‘so ordered’ by a judge unless otherwise specifically authorized by federal or New York State law; if the subpoena is thus authorized, it may move further to be served via New York City Process Service on the Department coupled with the subpoena fee.
[2.1] HOW TO RECORD AN FDNY VIOLATION.
An FDNY violation is an official notice that a property is not in compliance with the New York City Fire Code and/or Fire Department Rules. The degree of said non-compliance also varies greatly, with priority assigned to infractions requiring immediate action by the Fire Department. Sometimes, these actions may also lead to even the issuance of a criminal summons.
An inspection that the FDNY conducts can show the issues that have occurred in the space. However, New York City primarily issues Violations by way of [A.] Notice of Violation, Violation Order, [B.] criminal summonses, and a [C.]vacate the order.
To remove a violation from the record, the unsafe condition must be corrected, and Proof of the Correction must be provided to the FDNY. After correcting the condition, a Certificate of Correction must be completed within thirty-five days from the day the violation originally was issued. Locations, where a Vacate Order was issued must be re-inspected to complete the correction process. To fix a violation, the hazardous state must be fixed, and a successful effort must be taken for proof of correction. All FDNY summonses, except those that charge failure to certify correction, false certification, or violation of a Commissioner’s order (other than the order to certify correction), include an order requiring the defendant to correct the conditions constituting the violations and to file a certification with the Department that the conditions have been corrected. After finishing the unsafe condition treatment, a Certificate of Correction should be completed within thirty-five days of when the violation originally was issued. Locations who obtained a Vacate Order must re-inspect to amend the finding.
The FDNY can provide copies of violations. To ensure quick delivery, be sure to complete the Copy of Violation Request Form and attach all required documents. However, Vacate Orders can be obtained only in person.
Many of the Fire Department’s Records Request forms have been formally translated into several languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Hebrew.
[2.2] PROCEDURE FOR SUBMISSION OF A FOIL REQUEST.
All New York State and municipal departments that perform a governmental or proprietary function are open to the FOIL. Each government entity that has had firefighting responsibilities – fire districts, fire departments, and volunteer ambulance departments – is considered a part of the agency of the FDNY.
The Freedom of Information Law request demands that a request for public documents be sent to the ‘Records Access Office’ which a person must send, by mail, or by email (every agency subject to FOIL, provided that it has the ability to receive requests for records from the public and transmit records using email, is required to do so.
As per the New York Department of State, where an entity has the capacity to scan a record with the adequate technological tools required to do so without an unnecessary effort additional to taking action to a request in a varied manner, and a request is provided to provide the record by email, the agency should do so to adhere to FOIL.
Agencies need to produce the records maintained, allowing for limited requested access to any of the documents in their custody until an exemption allows the department to withhold the same under grounds specified in the FOIL. The grounds for refusing access to a person are set out in the legislation. Among these are documented [A.] expressly protected from disclosure under state or federal statute; or [B.]if revealed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; or [C.]if released would hinder present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations; or [D.] trade secrets or are submitted to an entity by a commercial enterprise or extracted from knowledge received from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would trigger substantial injury to the favorable position in a competition held by the relevant enterprise; or [E.] which are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, will either impede justice by dealing in court proceedings or would infringe upon the right to a fair and unbiased trial or wilfully report or release to another individual or organization the presence of a criminal investigation; or iii. reveal criminal investigation tactics or procedures, without routine techniques and procedures; and, or, if revealing details that may threaten someone’s life or protection.
[2.3] WHEN CAN A REQUEST BE DENIED AND THE APPEALS PROCESS
As stipulated by the legislation, the organization has five business days to permit or refuse access in full or in part. Suppose further time is requested, recognize the request’s receipt via written correspondence and specify an estimated date by which the agency may reply to the request. The documents can always be withheld if they do not adequately describe the agency’s records and are too vague in their manner. The organization’s inability to meet with any of the time limits established by statute will represent a rejection of a request that can be challenged within 30 days to the official appointed by the agency to assess appeals and/or the chief executive or regulatory body of the agency.
If the requester does not obtain a decision of the appeal within ten business days, they are entitled to begin a proceeding to contest the denial of access. The appeal may be directed to the Department’s Chief of Fire Prevention, with a copy to the Department’s Bureau of Legal Affairs, except that if the notice, order, violation, or determination appealed from was issued by the Chief of Fire Prevention, the appeal shall be directed to the Fire Commissioner, with a copy to the Department’s Bureau of Legal Affairs.
All Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the New York City Fire Department should be submitted online. On the same portal, questions may be posed for specific requests. Questions about specific requests should also be made through NYC OpenRecords using the Contact the Agency link available on every request page.
The simple truth is that if a FOIL request is brought to the notice of the request, no matter what the request, one must reply, and if records for perusal would be rejected, a valid reason must be furnished. Said reason must be immediately expressed to the requester.
The FDNY deals with several other incidents besides uniformed fire and EMS calls such as auto accidents, auto extrication, gas emergencies, entrapments, construction accidents, high angle rescues, trench rescues, confined space incidents, explosives, transit incidents, unstable buildings, or collapses, hazardous materials incidents, medical emergencies and many more. Most firefighters combine a tour and a 24-hour shift, followed by three days of leave. During one shift, each company is commanded by an officer (Lieutenant or Captain) and comprises one to five members for engine companies, one to five members for ladder companies, rescue companies, or squad companies, and one to six members for the hazardous materials company. Consequently, the FDNY has unique firefighting challenges in several ways, different from those of other agencies.
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1. The FDNY Fire Headquarters is located at 9 MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn, while the FDNY Fire Academy is located on Randalls Island. The IAFF locals are 94 and 854
2. The current fire commissioner is Daniel A. Nigro, who followed Salvatore ‘Sal’ Cassano.
3. Tours can be either nighttime tours (6 p.m. – 9 a.m.) or daytime tours (9 a.m. – 6 p.m.).
4. For in-person record requests:
FDNY Public Records Unit
9 MetroTech Center- First Floor
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
Use the FLATBUSH AVENUE ENTRANCE
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm (except Holidays)
5. in accordance with the requirements of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules
6. The so-ordered subpoena, together with the applicable subpoena fee, may be served on the Fire Department in-person to:
FDNY Bureau of Legal Affairs/CDLS Unit
9 MetroTech Center, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201
7. Due to Coronavirus concerns, effective immediately, the Cure/Compliance Unit will no longer conduct in-person processing of Certificates of Correction at FDNY Headquarters.
Until further notice, one may request a review of Certificates of Corrections/Proofs of Corrections via regular mail or email.
Submit the request via mail to:
Bureau of Legal Affairs
Administrative Enforcement Unit
9 MetroTech Center, 1st Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Submit the request via email to:
8. codified in the Public Officers Law Article 6, Sections 84-90.
9. The legal precedent of FOIL was established by the New York Court of Appeals in Westchester-Rockland Newspapers v. Kimball
10. FDNY Records Access Officer
FDNY Bureau of Legal Affairs – FOIL Unit
9 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: (718) 999-0293
FDNY Records Appeals Officer
Records Appeals Officer
FDNY Bureau of Legal Affairs – FOIL Unit
9 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: (718) 999-1669
11. Article 78 of the Civil Procedure Law and Regulations
12. submitted via NYC OpenRecords. Select the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) from the agency dropdown menu.
13. Questions about specific requests should also be made through NYC OpenRecords by using the Contact the Agency link available on every request page