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  1. #1
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    Default Firefighters supended six months for taking their gear to WTC

    After watching the tragic events unfold with the attack on the WTC and seeing over 6,000. peopled killed including 340 firefighters. 75 police and EMS personel.
    Four members of the Westhampton Beach FD in NY, after waiting over 28 hrs and their Dept.
    doing nothing to assist FDNY just couldn't wait any longer. They watched NYC Mayor Giuliani on TV advising volunteers were to
    report. After reporting to a staging area,they were then directed to ground zero where they assisted FDNY and NYPD along with hundreds volunteers. When they got back to their they were informed by the chief they were suspended. The chief in order to seupend them had to use the fact they had taken their FD issued turnout gear.In NY state any NY state firefighter may volunteer their service to any other fire dept.,and if there service is requird they then become coverd by the same workmens comp. as if they were in their own FD. If they had taken their own work gear
    there would be nothing any could do.
    Do you think they should have been suspend for six months/

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    No, I don't think they should be suspended for taking their gear.

    I do think they should be suspended for disobeying an order from a chief level officer. If the chief says no, that that's it. What happens if Westhampton Beach gets called to a working job and their own fire department can't respond because their membership is helping in New York City.

    Please don't take this the wrong way - I sat in my department's TV louge with my bag packed just waiting to go, but I knew that without my department's permission I wasn't just going to take my gear and go.

    Eventually my department was requested to send a crews into the city and the Chiefs organized a system so we would still have ample coverage in our own town.

    I understand that everyone wants to do everything they can to help but please think of it from the other side... imagine a scene where a group of firefighters get tired of just cutting a hole in a roof. Rather than doing what they are told to do by the incident commander, they decide they would rather pull a hose and go into a building.

    Whether we agree or disagree with what the chief says, on a scene or in the heat of the moment is not the time to argue or decide that you don't like what he says.

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    Are you sure you have all your facts straight on this story?

    We had some local boys from my area go into the city and get their pic in the paper standing atop the rubble at WTC in their gear....they are now being investigated for taking their gear into the city without prior approval or permission from the township that funds them and bought that gear. It is a double edged sword. On one hand you can say they should have gotten permission, on the other you can say if they did something to help that they should not be punished. In the end of all of the rescue work The City of New York thanked those that came to help but also admitted that some people should not have been there. That is the bottom line. The State of NJ issued a memo to all fire departments, squads, etc. that we were NOT to go into the city unless dispatched or contacted to do so. We waited, and got no call so we understood that we needed to wait until we were called. Had someone gone without permission I am sure they would be suspended right now. A paid dept. in NJ that I know of is under investigation right now because their shift went into the city against the advisement of their officer and got stuck in traffic on a highway then got toned out for a house fire and there was no one to respond. The Township is considering filing a suit against these fire fighters for taking equipment and gear that did not belong to them. They put other people at risk and so I can see both sides of this.
    Never forget those who went before and sacrified to make us better and stronger as a fire service and a nation. 09-11-01 forever etched in time and our memories. God Speed Boys!

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    Keep in mind people we are firefighters!!!
    We go to help our bretheren when they need it, and FDNY needed it at that time! We are also taught to think outside the box, these guys thought the box were the rules. Yes it needs to be stated that this is not allowed, but suspending f.f. for 6 months? And for a little thing like taking thier protective gear with them? I also heard of the coverage issue. If 4 f.f.'s leave the city and you start to worry about having ample coverage, you have bigger things to worry about!!! These f.f.'s were wrong not to co-ordinate with their commanding officers, but the punishment just doe'nt fit the crime here. Lets not make a bad situation worse by punishing our own for acting without thinking, even though that is part of our job at times. Thank you to the f.f.'s that went to help, I wish I could have, but next time(hopefully never), let people know what you are doing(like your chief). God bless us all....

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    As I have said here before... the FDNY is probably the most capable department on Earth for handling such an incident. If you have been keeping up on this forum and the Firehouse.com homepage, you will recall that the FDNY very quickly posted press releases stating that they did NOT need volunteers on the scene and that they would put out the call if and when they did. During the Oklahoma City bomb incident, one of the problems the local fire department faced was how to deal with the numerous "volunteers" who had no specialty to offer. This took away resources that were needed at the scene.

    What these people did was "freelance". While their intentions may have been good, their actions were done without coordination or leadership. My department has people on a "stand-by" list that the State of New York EMA established after the WTC disaster. They have not been called, so they have not gone. If they are called, they will be given a specific function to do when they get there which will serve the needs of our Brothers and Sisters in NYC.
    Richard Nester
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    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

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    probably an over-reaction, but the chief has his own first due to consider. What additional staffing got left back? There's alot of unanswered questions in the initial post.

    I agonized from the beginning knowing there were lots of FF's buried in NY. But my first reaction (after ensuring my kids were picked up) was to head to my station. We had a plane into the pentagon, and reports of other hijackings. Knowing that more could happen at any time, and the companies inside the DC beltway would be the first to go mutual aid to DC (and many did), I think I did right. And I think Westhampton could have gotten hit as easily as DC, from the info known at the time.

    Regardless of the major-scale freelancing that I don't agree with, I think the event and the need to be unified now should temper the punishment.

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    Four members of the Westhampton Beach FD in NY, after waiting over 28 hrs and their Dept.
    doing nothing to assist FDNY just couldn't wait any longer.


    Oh, too bad. Grow up.

    Thumbs up to the Chief.

    Perhaps the strongest strength in the fire service is Discipline. We don't freelance. We don't self-dispatch. If the largest block in a nearby town is on fire, do you just grab your gear and show up...or do you wait for your dispatcher to get the phone call "Hi, this XYZ dispatch and we're requesting mutual aid from your department." Or in a case like this, "Hi, this is New York State Office of Emergency Management and we're requesting a West Hampton Beach engine respond too..." 28 hours into the incident was well after Emergency Management would've taken over coordinating fire resources.

    If you were a firefighter in Downtown Manhattan that day...yep, probably could've helped in the immediate aftermath, and situations like that is what the NY law you mentioned was written for. If you were a firefighter in sight of the towers, probably make sense to go to your station and be ready if called. Heck, I don't even have a problem with the retired FDNY firefighters who returned to their old stations to pickup gear and go help. I don't fault the civilian volunteers who lined up to help.

    But guess what? Members of a fire department are not civilian volunteers. We need to maintain discipline and be ready to respond if called upon in an official and organized manner. There was no, zero need for firefighters from 80 miles away 28 hours into the incident to respond unless called for.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Wow, never thought I would say this publicly, but I agree with Dal.

    How come if you do what you want and don't listen to the officer on the scene its "freelancing." But in this case, hundreds of firefighters just showed up, started doing things, etc.

    Many were lucky they weren't locked up. Fact is, this is a crime scene. I would hate to think that any of the "volunteers" took home a souvenier, because that is a criminal act.

    Also, what would have happened if the firefighter was injured or killed while there. No one could prove they were there unless the body was found. Also, the town may deny benefits ("We specifically forbid them to go.")

    There's more to think about than just "helping our brothers."

    By 2 p.m. on the 11th, NY was telling NJ, Conn. & NY state that "No more help is needed or requested, do not send anyone else." NYC has since called only what they need.
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

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    I have to say the Chief is right. This was not a freak accident that occurred. The nation went immediately on high alert. Standing by to protect YOUR first in is where you belong. If you ain't called, you don't go. Violating a direct order can result in termination in a career dept. I think this sounds like a case of a bunch of J-V's trying to get some glory Makes great conversation later, "Yeah, I was there at the WTC. Yack, yack yack." . (Let me be perfectly clear here. I support the volunteer system and those who truly do it because their community needs them. However there are always a few who do it so they can have something to brag about, and those are usually the guys who do the least, complain the most, and can always be found near the news cameras.)
    A good fireman, which is what I hope to be remembered as, follows orders, keeps his mouth shut, stays inside the box until told otherwise and waits until he's promoted to start making command decisions. If you decide to start running the show from the bottom, don't be surprised when someone shows you the door.
    See You At The Big One

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    I agree with a couple of the other posts....should they be suspended for 6 months? no probably not...but disciplined, sure...if they were told not to go, why go??

    Dalmo is right....we dont do freelancing....was it a worthy cause? without a doubt......but unfortunatly freelancing is not tolerated well with this job.
    To complain about taking their own gear i think is a pretty lousy excuse though
    just my 2 pennies worth
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    Count me in with Dalmatian 90, Grit, MetalMedic and the others in support of the Chief. The chief was right in suspending these individuals. The first 24 hours of the incident were the most horrific nightmare that anyone could think of, but the one thing the FDNY had was accountability. They knew who was on duty, who responded and who made it out. The FDNY had their personnel and requested mutual aid from their neighboring communities. As a firefighter, I would have been willing to go to NYC if asked...but I wasn't. Firefighters with specialized skills, such as the USAR teams, DMAT teams were activated. If they wanted Westhampton Beach there, they would have been requested threough the proper channels.

    If they wanted to help, there were other ways. Donate blood. Do a fundraiser. Do their job and protect their community.

    Shed376...I encourage my personnel to use their heads and "think outside the box", but an the end of the day, everything has to be stored back inside the box to be used another time. Rules, regulations, SOP/SOG'S and general orders are there for a reason...to protect us so we can protect our communities.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    They did disobey and order...so discipline is in order....but suspension????? They did what a lot of the rest of us wanted to do badly but could not do so... I would have went had i been able to leave my job...My son would have went. Our brothers were in need.

    Sure...FDNY is more than capable...but they were in a state of confusion and shock and utter disbelief. Outside help in moderation was in order...

    So...smack em on the wrist...give em extra duty or a written reprimand... But 6 months?????? Come on folks... I guess if he can afford to suspend them for 6 months...staffing is not an issue???? What department can afford to lose people for that long? Is it a volunteer Dept???

    If so...I think the chief committed political suicide by taking the action he took.. If a career department...he committed career suicide....

    My opinion!
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    I have to agree w/ gonzo and the rest-

    Every fire/ems/police worker out there would have gone if the call came to them, fact is the rest of us waited for the orders to come through proper channels. Freelancing is a bad thing in the command structure- even though they may have done the right thing they went outside the "team" concept we try so hard to keep alive becouse it works so well.
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    Rules are Rules

    BUT, and just my many of my post allways have a Big Butt.

    Remember if your in the Miami FD you get rewarded for being stupid... All they have to do is that a vow to sue the city,,,

    And they have a much better case then the 3 ff that will Not ride on fire trucks with the American Flag.

    Yes, they were wrong, but Now with the 3 clowns in Miami how can you punish them...

    These firefighters in there heart felt they were doing the right thing.

    The 3 in Miami KNEW that what they were doing was bull Ship..

    We should give the the same punishment a Paid vacation in Florida, Bush Gardens is nice this time of Year and FREE for All FD @ PD EMS Workers till Jan 1, 2001,,,,

    Give Me A Break till Miami ShiP Cans those clowns you can't do ANYTHING TO ANYONE

    THANKS AGAIN MIAMI....

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    WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THE FIRE DEPARTMENTS THAT DID THE EXACT SAME THING,,,

    there are some FD in Florida did the same damm thing, are there so called chiefs made the call to do so,

    they are no better, and some might say worse, they are chief's they should know better lets fire them and kick there FD out of the IAFF Yeah,


    Captain 12

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    Opinions huh? Well here is mine. If these firefighters went with out authorization and without being requested by FDNY, that was NOT the right thing to do. If these personnel had been told not to go by their Chief and went anyway, they should have been terminated for insubordination. If they had not received a direct order to not go then in my opinion the suspension is warranted. You do not want anyone coming into your area messing up your scene so why would you want to mess up someone elses? Stay home, protect yours, and respond when requested and authorized. Like I said, just my opinion.

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    Well I'll add my two cents worth as well. Organized responses from Suffolk County Fire Departments were coordinated through the Dept. of Fire Rescue & Emergency Services. Specific types of units were called for and not all of them were utilized. Many wound up sitting in staging for hours on end before ebing sent home. I'm the Chief of a paid federal fire department and we did not get called. Sure, initial reaction is to respond and help, but we have seen this time and time again at major incidents. A disregard for the Incident Command System which we are all should be well versed in. Freelancing has caused major problems and will continue to cause problems in the future. I'm sure that there is more to the original posting that warrants a 6 month suspension, but "thinking outside the box" does not mean being insubordinate and doing as you wish.
    My initial gut reaction was exactly the same, go in and help with our city firefighters and dig with my bare hands if necessary until I bled to the bone. But, we cannot let our emotions take precedence over our responsibilities.
    As I said, this is my 2 cents worth and starting 30 years ago in the fire service, I'm entitled to those opinions. We cannot let the events of 9-11 disrupt our fire service infrastructure. If we let this happen, the terrorists have accomplished another of their goals. Remeber, every check and expect secondary incidents. The actions of 9-11 should not let our responsibilities fail to each other.

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    To all the people who think that there is nothing wrong with just showing up in NYC on Sept. 11 and jumping into the fray without the benefit of working under the incident command system, I can only guess that in your home departments you have no problem with any firefighters who want to showing up with gear at your working jobs and pitching in.

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    Yes we cannot condone freelancing, it kills people in some cases. Suspend, yes. 6 months, a little harsh. Sounds like a chief is making a point here, strong as it may be. If these guys disobeyed a direct order then perhaps the punisment is just, if not then they probably have the appeal process to use. What we have to realize is that every action has its concequences, maybe these guys had every good intention in mind but did not weigh their actions. Its unfortunate that they have been suspended but a little forthought sometime goes a long way in keeping out of the stinky stuff.

  20. #20
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    Our brothers were in need.
    But their department and area where not in need of more firefighters. The 343 lives lost where probably less than 10% of the on-duty force and 2% of the entire department. Before you even start to pull in the ample mutual aid available. It's a h*ll of a loss of lives, but 2% hardly cripples a department.

    Sure...FDNY is more than capable...but they were in a state of confusion and shock and utter disbelief. Outside help in moderation was in order...
    Which is precisely ****WHY**** having firefighters not responding on their own was and in the future will be so important. Having a bunch of people show up, with no knowledge of their actual identity, outside of normal channels of command and control, would **not** have been moderate, and it only adds to confusion, and distracts commanders from getting their own troops back in organization.

    What department can afford to lose people for that long? Is it a volunteer Dept???
    Probably one that cares about responding to incidents in an organized, professional manner and realizes organizations that keep everyone pulling in one direction attracts and keeps members easier than one that allows everyone to go off and do their own thing with no personal accountability.

    I'm sure it's a volunteer department -- Long Island has around 200 volunteer departments and 10,000 or so vollies (probably an underestimate...seriously.)

    If so...I think the chief committed political suicide by taking the action he took.. If a career department...he committed career suicide....

    Thank God most people respect people who can fairly enforce discipline.
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    This entire thread was interesting from my point of view. I was part of a FEMA S&R team deployed to the site on Sept. 25th. I do not believe FDNY was the best equipped to handle the incident due to the fact that their top people in urban search and rescue perished in the collapse. From the start, all FEMA teams, largely comprised of professional firefighters with extensive addition training, sat on the sidelines and watched as volunteers carried out multiple aimless searches. The first team (out of 8 available)wasn't allowed on the pile until the fourth day.
    Upon arrival, our team from Southern Nevada received complaints of actions of our members behaving unprofessionally. As it turned out, 10 to 15 members of North Las Vegas FD took their turnouts and flew to NYC and snuck into the hot zone. It was naturally assumed that they were with us. Not only did we have to deal with the stigma of being an outside federal agency, but we had to repeately distance ourselves from these freelancers. An already volatile situation was endangered by individuals putting their own personal interests over the legitimate operations of the disaster.
    I was ashamed to be associated with these "fellow firefighters".

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    While I'm probably just adding another "Me too!" post here, I have to agree with the Chief's desision. This kind of thing happened a lot. Here in Connecticut, there was a little blurb on the news about some firefighters who took a piece of apparatus down to NYC, against orders, and then got it damaged. They were, I believe, suspended. I'm not 100% sure, since the news never followed up on it. And I've heard through the grapevine that a bunch of other guys went down either against orders, or without permission.

    Myself, I'm a big fan of organization and order. I was really pleased at how well NE Connecticut organized a response to the incident. As far as I know, nobody had to go, but by 7PM or so Tuesday evening, we had thousands of fire and EMS people ready to respond as they were needed. Most likely, we'd have been covering assignments in the areas of CT closer to New York. But either way, you're helping.

    Myself, I wasn't selected to go. Of course everyone wanted to, but we couldn't strip our own town. I was just as proud, however, to be part of the "home guard". Those of us who were staying behind worked out an impromptu system to get a good daytime response for those of us who work in places where our pagers don't go off. If our guys had gone, I would have been just as happy to tell stories years from now about how I had been part of a group of people who'd protected our own town, even with diminished resources. It kind of reminded me of my favorite book from when I was a kid, about an old fireman with an old fire engine who saves the day while the rest of his department is out fighting a big fire in the city.

    Anyway, there's my pre-coffee rambling for the day.

    Andy

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    Originally posted by fyrcanine:
    I was part of a FEMA S&R team deployed to the site on Sept. 25th. I do not believe FDNY was the best equipped to handle the incident due to the fact that their top people in urban search and rescue perished in the collapse. From the start, all FEMA teams, largely comprised of professional firefighters with extensive addition training, sat on the sidelines and watched as volunteers carried out multiple aimless searches. The first team (out of 8 available)wasn't allowed on the pile until the fourth day.
    While I agree that the FDNY was unable to deal with the USAR aspects of the disaster (most of the team and team leader were missing), there were three professional USAR teams (not FEMA teams) that were deployed at the request of NY on the 12th. At that time, there were no FEMA teams on location (although there were a few Incident Advance Teams there). I don't know how you know what happened in the first four days if you weren't there until the 25th. Once the FEMA teams were assembled and got the "FEMA o.k." they deployed.

    I think you are doing a disservice to the professional non-FEMA teams by calling them "volunteer" and implying that they were doing an amateurish job.

    It is my understanding that all three of the teams received compliments from the FEMA teams and were requested by FEMA to remain on scene for the full ten day deployment.
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

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    A similar incident occurred in the County I live in (2 counties above NYC),where a vollie EMS Captain (also a FF,although quite poor!)stated in the local paper that he "couldn't stand to see the pain on the faces of his Brothers anymore, he had to do something", so he gathered up his issued TOG,and beat feet for Ground Zero. Blah,Blah,Blah,big hero at the WTC...Front page of the local paper....HERO....Blah,Blah-F'ing Blah!

    This supposed Officer,broke a direct order from his Company Chief,County Fire Coordinators,State Fire Coordinators, and ignored a request from The FDNY....because he "had to help"!

    And was made to look like a hero!



    Just like those yahoos from Long Island who couldn't wait till they got called, or start some other type of fundraiser - blood drive,boot drive,whatever!- they had to ignore orders to say, "Yep, I was on that job!"

    For those that were called to help, Thank You, what you have done for the Nation's Greatest Fire Department cannot be measured, For those of you that were lined up in human bucket conveyers, moving rubble for hours, again Thank You.

    For you MUTTS that buffed the job......Well I think you get the point.
    FTM - PTB

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    ....And by the way. You think a 6 month suspension is rough? Just be glad I am NOT your Chief.
    FTM - PTB

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