Fire Union Blasts 911 System

FoxNews.com - November 20, 2009

MYFOXNY - Stephen Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association says the deaths caused by a deadly fire in Crown Heights on Wednesday could have been prevented.

"We've never had this problem before," Cassidy told Good Day NY referring to the new dispatching system that relies on 911 operators to handle fire related calls and not professionally trained fire alarm dispatchers.

'It took firefighters an additional four minutes and 31 seconds (to reach the burning apartment where a father and his two children were killed.) That's a matter of life and death."

Cassidy and the UFA say 911 operators are not trained to handle fire related calls. "A fire alarm dispatcher would have given firefighters additional information... where the teachers were standing and the address they were looking at. A homeless man walked firefighters to the burning apartment."

Firefighters, according to the union, were given insufficent information yesterday when they were dispatched. Cassidy says they were only given a cross street. It took approximately three minutes and nine seconds for firefighters to get there. The additional four minutes and 31 seconds transpired as they searched for the blaze.

Fire Department officials fired back.

"As the department stated yesterday, both callers were unable to provide a specific address for the fire building and gave 911 operators the corner location of Rogers Avenue and Prospect Place -- where fire units were dispatched and responded in 3 minutes and 9 seconds," the FDNY said in a statement. "The tapes prove conclusively that the statements by the Uniformed Firefighters Association falsely claiming new dispatch procedures delayed the response were misleading and were the latest in a series of inaccurate statements by the union. Response time since Unified Call Talking began is down approximately 20 seconds."

Meanwhile, investigators say the man killed in the blaze may have tried to put out a fire caused by burning incense in a bedroom before calling 911. There were no smoke alarms in the apartment, accoring to the FDNY.