FDNY: Take Out Fire Alarm Boxes

Queens Gazette - October 28, 2010

by Liz Goff

In a move to reduce budget costs, city fire officials last week reactivated plans to remove fire alarm boxes from local streets.

FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Daniel Shacknai made the announcement at the October 19 Borough Cabinet Meeting, saying the move would save the city $6.3 million annually.

"The question the Fire Department is facing is what we can cut without compromising public safety," Shacknai said.

"We really believe we are actually going to be safer by eliminating a system that is generating thousands and thousands of false alarms."

Shacknai told the panel 85 percent of calls coming from the city's 15,000 alarm boxes in 2009 were false alarms. Fire officials estimate that at least 10 percent of fire alarm boxes are out of service on a regular basis.

Shacknai said the alarm boxes are no longer being used "for a good purpose" and the system is not being used the way it was in the past.

Shacknai said a federal injunction halted FDNY plans to shut down the system 15 years ago when a judge ruled that eliminating the alarm boxes put the city in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1999 and violated the rights of the deaf.

That ruling allowed the city to eliminate a small percentage of the alarm boxes.

City officials have filed a motion to remove the injunction, Shacknai said. But the city is facing another hurdle in a law passed by the City Council in the late 1990s that prohibits removal of the alarm boxes.