Everyone knows that firefighters save lives and protect property. But did you know they also care for displaced residents, install smoke alarms, educate the community, report fire code violations and secure fire scenes for investigations — sometimes all in the same shift?

Those are among the duties of the PFD’s new Community Action Teams, or CATs. By combining elements of the Fire Prevention Division, Fire Code Unit and Fire Marshal’s Office, these specialized units augment our ability to provide residents with fire protection, care and aid 24x7x365.

A typical day in the life of a CAT could include:

  • Approving high-rise evacuation plans for businesses
  • Caring for residents displaced by a fire until the Red Cross or another agency can arrange for temporary shelter
  • Serving as Public Information Officers (PIOs) at a fire scene and securing the property while waiting for fire marshals to arrive
  • Distributing literature and fire safety information at community events and on blocks where fires have occurred
  • Installing free smoke alarms for residents who request them by consulting the 311 smoke alarm database on their computer tablets
  • Helping out L&I by checking on nuisance properties and immediately reporting fire code violations using their tablets

“Before the CATs went into service, these fire prevention efforts were somewhat patchwork – being conducted on different days by different units,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy, who oversees the teams. “This more comprehensive approach allows PFD members to access information and respond in real time, while on-the-go, to better serve neighborhood needs.”

The three CATs work citywide and are based at Fire Headquarters in Northern Liberties; at the Fire Marshal’s Office in Southwest Philly; and at Engine 63 in East Oak Lane.

“The most rewarding part is being in a position to help people when they need it most,” said CAT member Capt. Lawrence Boyle. “Any effort to reach out to the community to help prevent the loss of life and property will pay future dividends.”