FIREHOUSE: With a proposed new entrance examination being designed under a court order, how long do you estimate it will take before the department can hire new members? KILDUFF: Right now, the written portion of the entrance exam is scheduled for late February through March. After the written...
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FIREHOUSE: With a proposed new entrance examination being designed under a court order, how long do you estimate it will take before the department can hire new members?
KILDUFF: Right now, the written portion of the entrance exam is scheduled for late February through March. After the written test is graded, the physical portion of the exam will be administered to those with the highest written scores. After the physical, a list will be established followed by a candidate investigation. As soon as the first few hundred candidates are identified, an 18-week probationary class will be scheduled, probably in late 2012. That means new firefighters won’t arrive in the firehouse until early 2013.
FIREHOUSE: How will retirements and possible promotions affect the number of members currently in the rank of firefighter and increase the need to fill vacancies with overtime before the new members can be hired?
KILDUFF: Our overtime budget has increased significantly because we are hundreds of firefighters below our usual staffing level. Promotions have been slowed down, so as not to deplete the firefighter rank too quickly, but at the same time, we still need to maintain our supervisor ranks at a safe level. The firefighters are all working more tours. We try our best to spread out the work assignments and balance the overtime.
FIREHOUSE: How has the department’s research on ventilation and wind-driven fires changed the standard operating procedures for these types of incidents?
KILDUFF: The department has changed its approach to wind-driven fires, particularly in fireproof high-rise residential dwellings, based on recent national tests and tests conducted here in New York City, which we did with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
There are several thousand residential high-rises in New York City. We lost four firefighters in high-rise hallways in the ’90s and one in 2008. Our approach has become much more deliberate with a heavy reliance on size-up and communications. We now have units that respond to these fires with the ability to deploy a “window curtain” and/or a high-rise nozzle from the floor below. We have also introduced mechanical ventilation of hallways and stairs into high-rise operations. So far, these new procedures have worked well for us.
FIREHOUSE: In the past, when there were several Maydays at an incident at the same time, it was difficult to keep track of a firefighter on a visual display on a radio. How has that changed today?
KILDUFF: We have begun implementing a tool, created in-house, called the “Electronic Firefighter Accountability System” (EFAS). The system utilizes a laptop or mobile data terminal to record and time-stamp all radio transmissions at the scene of an incident. The EFAS can lock in, highlight and identify any emergency alert transmission sent by a firefighter. If a verbal-only Mayday is transmitted, we can scroll to identify all radios that have transmitted and identify the firefighter by conducting an electronic roll call, if necessary. A member of our FAST (or rapid intervention) team is dedicated to the EFAS screen for the duration of the incident.
FIREHOUSE: I heard you describe the weekday as “the business end of the fire department.” Please explain what you mean.
KILDUFF: The day tour for our company officers and firefighters starts at roll call and continues on through building inspection periods, training periods (in quarters or at our Training Academy), special inspections (construction/demolition), hydrant inspection, fire safety education duties and firehouse and equipment maintenance. There is no down time during the day tour any longer. All of the above activity must be documented, so the company officer spends considerable time in the office. By the way, this is in addition to the six-eight-10 responses the unit takes in during the tour, so the end of the day arrives in a hurry.