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: Why is the department responding to so many more emergencies like stuck occupied elevators, natural gas leaks, water leaks, electric emergencies and steam leaks?
KILDUFF: New York is a sprawling city with many buildings approaching 100 years old and dozens of public housing complexes in each borough. In some regard, we have become the Mr. Fix-It for the city – “Call 911 and the guys in the big red truck will show up to fix the water leak, access the stuck elevator or shut down the gas!” That said, we all know there are no “routine” emergencies.
FIREHOUSE: Please explain the department’s retrofitting of each apparatus with a newer type of seatbelts.
KILDUFF: Commissioner (Salvatore) Cassano and Chief of Safety Steve Raynis are extremely committed to providing a safer response environment for our members. Although the number of serious accidents is down, there is no question in our mind that wearing seatbelts will eventually save a firefighter’s life. The commissioner has allocated over a million dollars for this retrofit. We are working on an education plan to convince every member to wear his or her seatbelt every time they are on the apparatus.
FIREHOUSE: Has the department’s policy of responding with no lights and sirens to certain types of calls reduced apparatus accidents?
KILDUFF: “Modified response” reduces the number of units responding with lights and sirens to certain types of “low-risk” calls (utility emergencies, fixed-station alarms, pull boxes). The first-due engine, ladder and chief respond in normal emergency mode. The second- and third-due units obey all traffic regulations. These units in particular, have seen close to a 50% decrease in accidents in all areas of the city. We give full discretion to the responding company officer or battalion chief to order all units to switch to “emergency mode” if they feel there is reason to have all units respond with lights and sirens.
FIREHOUSE: How has training helped the department since 9/11?
KILDUFF: More than any other aspect, training has been the foundation of rebuilding the department since Sept. 11. Starting with hiring thousands of new firefighters, promoting hundreds of new officers and taking on the additional responsibilities brought on by Sept. 11, the FDNY has invested over a hundred million dollars in training and equipment. Ten years later, training is still the linchpin to implementing a new tool, procedure or federal mandate. We never short-change training and continually strive for methods to push training down to a local level. When I get the occasional complaint that units are spending too much time at our Training Academy, I know we’re doing a good job.
FIREHOUSE: Many new types of special apparatus have been added to the department to enhance operations since 9/11. Please describe how these units will help the department.
KILDUFF: The majority of our new apparatus are dedicated to the department’s role at a large-scale, multi-casualty incident. Some of these apparatus carry technical equipment for collapse/rescue or re-breather operations. Other apparatus carry large caches of equipment to deal with the aftermath of a bio/chem release or major explosion and are complemented by special EMS “Haz-Tac” units that can operate alongside firefighters in a dangerous environment. While everyone likes to focus on preventing an incident, it’s our job to be prepared to mitigate the incident and to provide assistance to potentially hundreds of casualties. We feel the threat is as real now as it was in 2001.
We have also partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to purchase two new 140-foot fireboats, a 64-foot fireboat and a dozen new 33-foot boats to provide complete fire and life safety coverage in New York Harbor.
FIREHOUSE: The department has given engine and ladder companies many different roles other than basic firefighting. For example, a ladder company may also respond as a Special Operations Command support truck, cold-water rescue unit, chemical protective company or as part of a decontamination task force. In today’s economy, how does that benefit the department’s ability to respond to unusual incidents?