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A new pilot program instituted in Queens firehouses is aimed at improving safety for firefighters, but representatives from the Bravest’s union said it will make their job more difficult in the borough.
The FDNY has issued new rules for how emergency units are dispatched to certain circumstances. In specific cases, such as a gas leak and downed trees, one fire engine company will be allowed to use its sirens to bypass traffic lights and other road regulations to get to the scene while the second and third units will arrive with their sirens turned off and be forced to obey traffic laws.
James Long, the director of public information for the FDNY, said the program was created to deal with an increasing number of fire engine accidents during emergencies.
“We have found that we have had 148 apparatus accidents that involved second or third units going to the same call,” he said.
Leroy McGinnis, the Queens trustee of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, disagreed with the department and said the three-month program will be more detrimental to the hundreds of firefighters who work in the borough. Queens leads the city in the longest response times for the FDNY and the new rules will slow down firefighters even more, according to the union representative.
“The holy grail for this Fire Department is response times,” he said.
McGinnis said he thinks Queens was singled out for the program because the department will use the slower response times as justification for firehouse closures.
But Long said the FDNY chose the program because several of the project’s planners are Queens fire chiefs and it was more efficient for them to observe the program. He also added that the engine deployment rules are not set in stone.
“If need be, we will modify it and change it,” he said.
The union has sent a letter to the FDNY where it lists its problems with the program, and Long said the department is looking at the letter and will be working with the union to discuss their needs.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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