FDNY Backlog Down to 166 Outstanding Calls Tuesday Morning from Height of 1300 During Blizzard

NY Daily News - December 29, 2010

by Jonathan Lemire

Outstanding FDNY calls were up to as much as 1,300 at the height of the blizzard.

The backlog of emergency calls to the FDNY - which hit a staggering 1,300 at the height of the Christmas blizzard - dropped to under 200 Tuesday morning, officials said.

Only 166 calls were still outstanding as of 10 a.m., three of which were considered life-threatening, according to FDNY sources.

The potentially dangerous delays were created by the massive blizzard, which made scores of roads impassable and even buried some ambulances in massive snowdrifts.

Sixty-eight ambulances remained stranded Tuesday morning, forcing the FDNY to call in 32 from counties in New Jersey and upstate New York, according to officials.

The wicked winter weather prompted the FDNY to make staffing adjustments, adding a fifth man to engine companies that normally have four, as well as asking firefighters to work longer tours.

The FDNY also changed the procedure for firefigthers responding to medical emergencies - but a Fire Department spokesman refuted a published report that medics were ordered to stop working on a patient after 20 minutes.

With the department's ambulances stretched thin by the storm, many firefighters have become the first to arrive at medical emergencies, officials said.

If those firefighters are treating a patient - especially one in cardiac arrest - for more than 20 minutes, they now able to ask their dispatcher to connect them directly to a Fire Department doctor, the officials.

That doctor, after being advised of the patient's condition, can instruct the firefighter to cease treatment - but he can also order the Bravest to keep working until a paramedic arrives.

"Firefighters are now in a position to talk to doctors and each case is handled differently," said FDNY spokesman Jim Long. "But in no way has there been an order given for responders to stop treatment."

Normally, firefighters would hand off a patient to a paramedic or emergency medical technician once an ambulance arrives, Long said.

The procedure for treatment administered by paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians has not been changed, Long said.