Firefighter's Union Blasts Plan to Reduce Noise On Calls

NY 1 - October 01, 2010

The firefighter's union is speaking out against a pilot program that would cut down on the number of units that respond to non-fire emergencies with lights and sirens. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report. Starting next week, the New York City Fire Department is set to reduce the number of fire units that respond to certain types of emergencies with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The three-month pilot program, known as "Modified Response," will be tested at fire companies all over Queens.

"The history of the department's response with the lights and sirens is that firefighters are responding to a serious emergency," says Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy. "Until somebody actually gets there, it is difficult to determine the extent of that emergency."

FDNY officials say not all emergencies require the same response. They are testing to see the impact of reducing the use of lights and sirens for the second and third engine companies heading to emergency calls that are not fires, like a gas leak or a stuck elevator.

The first responding unit will still respond with lights and sirens, but those that follow will do so at a reduced speed.

The FDNY believes the program will lead to fewer accidents and less noise.

The firefighters' union, however, says the plan is confusing and could lead to more accidents, not fewer.

"Now you have to make a decision, whether or not this is in the category where you, your company, normally would respond lights and sirens, but on this particular occasion, you don't," says Cassidy. "There's confusion, that confusion is going to lead to maybe more accidents on fire apparatus."

John Jay College fire science professor Glenn Corbett says it is a delicate balance when it comes to changing the way fire units respond to emergencies.

"Some of these responses could turn out to be real emergencies, and so the city needs to be very careful," says Corbett.

FDNY officials say units are in constant contact with one another, and if an emergency develops, the second and third unit will be alerted. They also said the number of units responding to these emergencies will not change.

The agency points out that last year alone, there were more than 50 accidents involving second and third due units, and that the new program is trying to reduce this problem.