Philadelphia Fire Department – Emergency Response Times December 2015

Audit Date: December 16, 2015
Audit Categories
  • Performance
Controller: Alan Butkovitz
Audit Tags
  • Brownout,
  • Firefighter Rotation,
  • Public Safety


City Controller Reviews Impact of Brownout & Rotation Policies

Executive Summary


In an effort to analyze Philadelphia Fire Department’s (PFD) policies on public safety, the Controller’s Office reviewed data for emergency response rates and assessed the impact of the rolling Brownout and Rotation procedures. More specifically, these policies were studied to determine what effect they had on the PFD to meet the national standard for response as set forth by the National Fire Protection Association.


National Response Standard Not Being Met
The Fire Response Time includes the moment an emergency dispatch is received at the fire house to when the first-due engine has arrived at the emergency scene. According to the National Fire Protection Association’s standard, the first-due engine on the scene of a fire must arrive within 5:20 and should be met at a rate of 90 percent for all fire and special operations.

During calendar year 2014, the City Controller’s review disclosed the PFD’s first-due engine managed to meet the 5:20 benchmark only 75 percent of the time.

Decline in Response Rate

A review of PFD’s records indicated a significant decline in the overall timeliness of engine response to fire emergencies from 2008 through 2014. In 2008, the PFD engines reached their destination within 5:20 standard 81 percent of the time, which was still below the 90 percent compliance reliability rate. Six years later, the PFD engines were meeting the 5:20 benchmark only 75 percent of the time.

The significant decline appears to be affected by Administrative policy changes that have occurred since 2008. For instance, in 2010 the Mayor’s Administration implemented the Brownout Policy, which includes three engine companies to close during the day shift and for two engine companies and one ladder to close during the night shift every week.

In the year the Brownout Policy was implemented, Philadelphia’s compliancy rate dropped from 79 percent to 75 percent, recording the largest one-year decrease since 2008.