1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Lexington, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    11

    Default Ranks Thin in Hazard Unit of Fire Dept.

    from the NY Times

    August 5, 2003
    Ranks Thin in Hazard Unit of Fire Dept.
    By MICHELLE O'DONNELL


    n the aftermath of Sept. 11, when 11 members of the New York City Fire Department's highly trained hazardous materials unit perished, there was widespread agreement, from outside experts to city officials, that the elite emergency unit needed not only to be rebuilt but also expanded, perhaps even doubled in size to deal with future disasters.

    But nearly two years after the World Trade Center was destroyed, the department actually has fewer firefighters in the unit, which deals with biological, chemical or radiological attacks, than it did before Sept. 11. Some 14 of the 35 positions in the city's one formal hazardous materials unit are vacant, according to a current member, and the notion of adding a fully trained second unit appears remote.

    Fire Department officials, while saying they still desire to expand the ranks of the specialized unit, said they had decided to try to improve the basic hazardous materials training of all members of the department so they could assist in handling another terrorist attack. They said a lack of money was one reason they had failed to expand the number of fully trained hazardous materials specialists.

    Some experts inside and outside the department have criticized its overall response as inadequate. They say the idea of providing fewer hours of training to a greater number of firefighters is a dangerous mistake, and they say the department's top officials have simply failed to create a real plan for recruiting men and women to the specialized unit.

    "There's really no clear concept on what the plan is," said a current firefighter in the unit, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation.

    Traditionally, it has always been difficult for the department to lure firefighters away from the dramatic work of fighting fires for the sometimes more tedious work of studying chemistry and the operations of gas-reading meters. And some firefighters say the high death toll at the trade center gave them pause about joining any specialized unit that would almost certainly respond to another attack.

    But the department says its efforts to add a second formal unit of elite hazardous materials specialists have been hampered most critically by the fact that much of the federal money available to the department, now and in the future, cannot be used to finance units that become permanent parts of the department's work force. The money the department has received more than $6 million already, is slated to get another $3 million this month and has requested $10 million more is meant to cover one-time emergency needs or equipment.

    Francis X. Gribbon, a department spokesman, said the department simply could not commit to paying the salaries of men and women assigned to an entirely new unit. He said the federal government would pay for training and equipment only.

    Instead, last fall, not long after a consultant hired by the city in the wake of Sept. 11 said that the department should somehow expand its hazardous materials ability, fire officials made a policy decision to concentrate their efforts and money on providing more members of the rank and file with some hazardous materials training rather than add a formal second unit.

    "With our limited resources, it's a better use of funding to extend haz-mat training to companies throughout the city," said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. But Mr. Scoppetta conceded he does not consider the situation ideal.

    "No question about it, if there was additional funding, we would have a second unit," he said.

    Other experts, though, cautioned that some combination of a fully-trained second unit and lesser trained firefighters would be the better alternative.

    "I think you have to have both to a certain extent," said Glenn Corbett, an assistant professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It is good, he said, to have as many first responders as possible with hazardous materials training. "On the flip side," he added, "you should have enough highly proficient specialists who can mitigate the disaster."

    Hazardous materials firefighters are responsible for responding to a wide variety of emergencies, from the common, like containing a fuel oil spill, to the unusual and dramatic, like collecting suspicious powder found on a subway train. At the scene of a biological or chemical attack, the specialists would be responsible for identifying the substance and devising a plan for limiting the impact.

    At the core of their 300 hours of training as hazardous materials specialists is a semester-long chemistry course squeezed into 80 hours over two weeks, as well as training in many other courses, like handling bombs and unconventional weapons.

    The department's elite rescue and squad units also take the 80-hour chemistry course and qualify as technicians in hazardous materials, but not all take the additional 220 hours of training like the specialists.

    "It may not be as simple as the routine chemical attack," one retired officer from the hazardous materials unit said of the variety of possible threats. "It could be the thing you haven't thought about. That's why you have to do a little training in the other areas."

    The department says its efforts to fortify abilities in dealing with hazardous materials among the rank and file has been successful. It has equipped engines and ladders with radiation detectors. New firefighters now take a hazardous materials training course at the fire academy. And, recently, the department trained 20 ladder companies in a shortened version of the hazardous materials course to assist the main specialized unit.

    But members of the unit say the minimal training the ladder firefighters get can be only marginally effective in hazardous situations.

    "They give them enough information on how to turn on a meter, but not enough to read the meter and help resolve the situation," said the HazMat firefighter. "They're first-line responders with a little knowledge, which can be very dangerous."

    Whatever the merits of the department's decision to give as many firefighters as possible some degree of training, it is clear that the department has failed to successfully recruit new members to the single unit that the city relies on to contain and control a hazardous situation.

    The unit, derisively nicknamed Haz Nap by other units, typically draws firefighters with military backgrounds, a fascination with chemistry or those who simply want to earn overtime. It is not uncommon for the unit's members to spend their spare time in the firehouse reading textbooks or carrying handbooks on compressed gases to read on the truck.

    In the past, HazMat, like the department's other units, could rely on its elite cachet to draw new members, but since Sept. 11, 2001, when most of the department's special units were lost, that has not been enough. At times, the average experience of the HazMat team on duty can be as little as five months, according to the current member.

    At one point, he said, the number of firefighters working in the 35-member unit dropped to 16. The pool of available firefighters was critically small, resulting in extraordinary amounts of overtime for firefighters.

    In order to expand that pool, the department is considering using incentive pay to attract firefighters to the unit. The department already pays some members for special training, like emergency medical training. Another incentive, members say, would be to reimburse the full costs of the courses on chemistry and weapons that they voluntarily take even after joining the unit.

    One retired officer from the unit said the department could have done more before and after Sept. 11 to attract people to the unit.

    "Sometimes you have to be creative with ideas and concepts," he said. "It's not always possible. But you know these are exceptional times, and exceptional times need exceptional solutions."

  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ff7134's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    1,093

    Default

    Send me a application....I'll go!!!

    Its sad that one of the Countries Best HAZMAT Team is having problems with staffing. But big surprise when the city wants to short them money for training and personnel.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

    IAFF Local 3900

    IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

    ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats

    F.A.N.T.A.M FOOLS FTM-PTB

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    I'll do it! Count me in too!

    It's too bad that you have to be in FDNY in order to be selected for the Haz Mat unit. I am sure that there are many people outside FDNY with ample experience that would jump at the chance to be a part of that unit. Two have already spoken up!
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ff7134's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    1,093

    Default

    Lewiston2Capt

    I guarantee they wouldn't have a problem fully staffing CO 1 and staffing a second company if they would hire outside of FDNY for that postion. I know I would be applying.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

    IAFF Local 3900

    IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

    ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats

    F.A.N.T.A.M FOOLS FTM-PTB

  5. #5
    FIREMAN 1st GRADE
    E40FDNYL35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 1999
    Location
    Malingering
    Posts
    3,644

    Cool

    One of the problems not mentioned in this is the Department is 80% under 5 years. Nobody wants to go to HazMat because you do very limited fire duty if any.
    Last edited by E40FDNYL35; 08-05-2003 at 06:28 PM.
    ALL GAVE SOME BUT SOME GAVE ALL
    NEVER FORGET 9-11-01
    343
    CAPT. Frank Callahan Ladder 35 *
    LT. John Ginley Engine 40
    FF. Bruce Gary Engine 40
    FF. Jimmy Giberson Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Otten Ladder 35 *
    FF. Steve Mercado Engine 40 *
    FF. Kevin Bracken Engine 40 *
    FF. Vincent Morello Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Roberts Ladder 35 *
    FF. Michael Lynch Engine 40
    FF. Michael Dauria Engine 40

    Charleston 9
    "If my job was easy a cop would be doing it."
    *******************CLICK HERE*****************

  6. #6
    Forum Member
    HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    2,460

    Default

    please allow me to play devil's advocate on this topic:

    from the public's point of view:
    why should my taxes pay for multiple highly specialized units that spend most of their time in the fire house? one unit can respond to the majority of the hazmat calls, and when they respond, both the rescue and squad companies respond as well (both are staffed with hazmat techs). further, if a second call comes in, either the rescue or squad companies can respond. i'm not paying your guys to sit around; i'm paying you guys to respond to emergencies. as a result, i'd rather the department train everyone in hazmat, then have to hire additional FF and create additional compaines that will spend the majority of their time "in the firehouse reading textbooks or carrying handbooks on compressed gases to read on the truck. "

    from the administration point of view:
    yes, we want to expand the hazmat unit. but we have a limited amount of money, that needs to be used to pay for the entire department. recently we created the squad companies, which were designed to be able to handle WMD and HM incidents. furthermore, if we role HM 1 with 2 specs, and also send a rescue and a squad with 10 more techs, that is just as effective as creating 2 HM units staffed with a total of 10 HM specs. plus, the HM unit can direct the techs in what needs to be done about the situation.

    just trying to give the view from the other side.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Division 24
    Posts
    4,360

    Default

    Big city's need to be able to have a well trained,FULLTIME haz mat unit. It dosen't matter if they spend most of their time in the firehouse,although that is not necessarily correct. The Chicago Fire Department haz mat team, stays quite busy and the City is much smaller then NYC. In the suburbs, we have regional teams, which is the correct way to do it. In the Big City, it just wouldnt work out too well.

  8. #8
    FIREMAN 1st GRADE
    E40FDNYL35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 1999
    Location
    Malingering
    Posts
    3,644

    Default

    DrParasite...please allow me to play devil's advocate on this topic: "I'm not paying your guys to sit around; I'm paying you guys to respond to emergencies."

    Firefighters are an insurance policy. You pay into it but you hope you never have to use it. You want to have the most qualified company with the best tools at a HazMat incident. ( New York City Fire has that. ) These guy's are not sitting around. They go to schools and train every day on Hazmat. Me personal I hope I never see the Hazmat pull up because I know something bad is there. But I know if I do there the BEST at what they do. One of the problems still is, the Department is 80% under 5 years.
    Last edited by E40FDNYL35; 08-06-2003 at 08:46 AM.
    ALL GAVE SOME BUT SOME GAVE ALL
    NEVER FORGET 9-11-01
    343
    CAPT. Frank Callahan Ladder 35 *
    LT. John Ginley Engine 40
    FF. Bruce Gary Engine 40
    FF. Jimmy Giberson Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Otten Ladder 35 *
    FF. Steve Mercado Engine 40 *
    FF. Kevin Bracken Engine 40 *
    FF. Vincent Morello Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Roberts Ladder 35 *
    FF. Michael Lynch Engine 40
    FF. Michael Dauria Engine 40

    Charleston 9
    "If my job was easy a cop would be doing it."
    *******************CLICK HERE*****************

  9. #9
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ff7134's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    1,093

    Default

    DrParasite,

    #1 Are you a Tech???Or on a Team?
    #2 Have you ever been on a large scale HAZMAT Incident?

    My Team has about 25 Techs that come from 4 Departments but Mainly from my department. It takes usually 1 Tech(the Chief) as HM IC, 1 Tech Safety Officer, 2-3 Techs For research, 2 Recon Techs, 2-3 Mitigation Techs and thats 10 Techs and that is for a small incident. I was at a large incident that had 19 Techs and we still needed more. And this is middle of nowhere Ohio. NYC has a whole lot more of potential for a HAZMAT then we do. And yes they do have the Squad Co's and the Rescues. But lets get realistic, how much time do they actually get practicing and studing HAZMAT stuff.....very little!!
    So I could very well see the need for a full Company 1 and a second company. And like E40 said they are at 80% staffing and no one wants to transfer due to the lack of fire, HM is a very thought orientied type of service. Also like E40 said...we are insurance plain and simple. Would you want the guys trying to save your bacon someone who has the training; or guys who live,breath and love HAZMAT?? Me I'll take the second choice!
    Last edited by ff7134; 08-06-2003 at 08:58 AM.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

    IAFF Local 3900

    IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

    ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats

    F.A.N.T.A.M FOOLS FTM-PTB

  10. #10
    Forum Member
    HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    2,460

    Default

    No, I'm not a tech, and not on a team. and i'll be the first to admit that my hazmat knowledge isn't that great. i have no feelings about this topic one way or another (due to my lack of hazmat experience). I do agree that NYC should have a fully staffed hazmat unit. and I think probably 95% of the people on these boards say NYC should have more HazMat units, and I figured i would try and see this from the other side (the non-firefighter side), and state the reasoning. after all, it would be kinda dull if everyone just agreed with the topic. now, I'm going to put my hat back on (you know, the one with the horns) and resume my role as the devil's advocate.

    ff7134, your right about needed lots of techs. but the hazmat team members are all HazMat Specialists. all the members of the squads and rescue companies are trained to the tech level. That's 6 techs per squad and i think 8 techs per rescue. and if they aren't training enough in HM, why don't they just train more? why not train the truck companies trained to the hazmat tech level too? with the exception of the initial training, it doesn't cost signifigantly more.

    MIKEYLIKESIT, good point about bringing up chicago's HazMat Unit. If you say they are busy, then I'll take your word for it. but how often is a second hazmat call pending, while the main hazmat unit is out on another hazmat call? if they can handle everything with one unit, that's great. if CFD or another department needs to recall off duty HM specialists for a major hazmat call, i have no problem with that, since I'm paying them to work. but if one unit can handle all the calls, then what is the need for a second unit?

    once again, i'm not anti-firefighter, or anti-hazmat (I have been in the fire dept for over 4 years).

    i'm just trying to give the persepctive of the non-firefighter, the public citizen, who pays the bills but doesn't always know what the day to day operations are.

    oh, E40FDNYL35, when i went through FF1, my istructor told us he was asked the same question by a public citizen ("why am I paying you to sit around at the station") and his response was exactly what you said.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    May 1999
    Location
    Here, There, Everywhere
    Posts
    4,191

    Default

    DrParasite-

    I can see where you are trying to argue the others side but I think some background info and Facts are necesary to alivate any misconceptions...

    1st New York City comprises 468 sq miles of dense developent and humainty, All but the Bronx are on islands. This makes for limited access between Boro's. While other cities may be larger in area...the density and congestion of the streets contributes to poor mobility. The Haz-Mat is based out of Queens and depending on where the Box is, it might take some time for them to arrive.

    Listed in the McKinsey Report was the need for additional Haz Mat resources. Having only one speciallized Haz-Mat company was seen as a weekness especailly in light of 9-11/anthrax scares/terrrorism. While no one is arguing that training Trucks to Ops level is bad...it doesn't provide techs and specialists that can mitigate an incident.

    There are only 5 Rescues and 7 Squads(all have 5 men & 1 officer). They have many duties other than Haz-Mat. Although there might not be multiple Haz-Mat incidents, there might be a simultaneous rescue call and the Rescue and Squad normally assigned are tied up at a Haz-Mat run while waiting for additonal resources in the form of HM1.

    As for the Haz-Mat, Rescues & Squads not training enough...the Rescue's and Squads do nothing but train with multiple drills per day. Some on fire, some tech rescue and some on Haz-Mat. The members of SOC are some of the most motivated and dedicated individuals out there. In fact most depts in the country would be challenged to find companies that drill as much or more than those guys.

    I'm not sure how training Trucks to Tech Level would be the simplest or best idea...there are multiple issues that would need to be addressed. Initial training, recertification training, daily haz-mat drills now must also be fit in with regular daily drills to maintain proficency. $$$ to pay the members for their new responsibility, medical monitioring of blood and more intinsive medical exams for all those truck compaines members. Would that restrict what members could work in those companies on details? Could members of the Engine cross the floor or would they have to hire OT members who are trained as techs? Are these not the same issues your or anyone else's fire dept face?

    Also while call backs might work in your city, they prob. wouldn't work in NY or many other large cities. For that would involve, members being found, reporting to the firehouse getting their gear, procuring transportation to this incident once they were all assembled...but depending on traffic and where one lives in NY it might take 2+ hours just to get to the firehouse. Not to mention that it would involve contract talks regarding a number of issues with the unions. Number one being this is a paid profesional Fire Dept. If NY needs more resources then NY should have more compaines, not call in more members when an incident happens, NYC is not some small village with a paid-on-call vollie company.

    I hope this gives you a better understanding of the issue presented in Times article.
    Last edited by FFFRED; 08-06-2003 at 10:01 PM.

  12. #12
    Forum Member
    MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Division 24
    Posts
    4,360

    Default

    In Chicago,there are fire companies that are "sister companies" with the haz mat unit. Also the city Squad (heavy rescue)companies respond on haz mat incidents. 5-1-1 which is the Haz Mat unit covers alot of ground. They do, at times respond from one end of the city to the other. Thats almost 30 miles.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ff7134's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    1,093

    Default

    FFFred thanks for the extra info. I know that the Squad and Rescue Companies are usually very busy. The Squads also respond to their normal BOX Alarms on top of special rescue and hazmat. And with respect to the daily training of the squads and rescues, I am glad to hear that they do get training time do all their specialties. I know it has to be a pain in the butt due to their call load to get some good training going.

    And I know the amount of time I spend a shift on HAZMAT. I spend at least 2 hours a day reading manuals and other material, and 2 times a month we have a 4-6hr training with the team.

    As for the call load, being that I don't know the exact SOP and call requirements for HM1 and can tell you they are probably very busy. I know we send out our HM Rapid truck for any fuel spill greater than 45 gallons. And FDNY has to have a greater chance of having HM calls than I do. And I have heard that Chicago's HM Team are VERY busy.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

    IAFF Local 3900

    IACOJ-The Crusty Glow Worm

    ENGINE 302 - The Fire Rats

    F.A.N.T.A.M FOOLS FTM-PTB

  14. #14
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,694

    Default

    Quick question. How often is Hazmat 1 needed but not available due to being on another call?

  15. #15
    Senior Member
    Dalmatian90's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Posts
    3,120

    Default

    Question for E40FDNYL35:
    80% under 5 years.

    What does that mean? 80% have less than 5 years on the job, or you've been staffed only 80% for 5 years, or something else?

    ======================
    Another observation/relation for what it's worth.
    First, I'm skeptical NYC can be adequately served by a single dedicate Haz-Mat unit, and the Squads/Rescues are awful busy already to keep up high level Tech skills, too.

    But anyway, our local Haz Mat Tech from the State says he used to make Level A entries 40+ times a year, and now they may go months without one. Simply, better compliance with regulations have meant fewer needs for Level A entries. Ironically, as the need for Level A entries has gone down, the resources to handle all Haz-Mats from simple ops to complex, long term mobile lab & mitigation work has increased several fold.

    I'm not sure if that little story is a good one for regulations doing their job, or a tale of government resources being 15 years behind the curve -- now finally having resources to deal with a problem that's a lot less than it used to be.

  16. #16
    FIREMAN 1st GRADE
    E40FDNYL35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 1999
    Location
    Malingering
    Posts
    3,644

    Default

    Originally posted by Dalmatian90
    What does that mean? 80% have less than 5 years on the job, or you've been staffed only 80% for 5 years, or something else?
    ...Firefighters with less then 5 years are the majority about 80%. Members over 5 year minority about 20%.
    ALL GAVE SOME BUT SOME GAVE ALL
    NEVER FORGET 9-11-01
    343
    CAPT. Frank Callahan Ladder 35 *
    LT. John Ginley Engine 40
    FF. Bruce Gary Engine 40
    FF. Jimmy Giberson Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Otten Ladder 35 *
    FF. Steve Mercado Engine 40 *
    FF. Kevin Bracken Engine 40 *
    FF. Vincent Morello Ladder 35
    FF. Michael Roberts Ladder 35 *
    FF. Michael Lynch Engine 40
    FF. Michael Dauria Engine 40

    Charleston 9
    "If my job was easy a cop would be doing it."
    *******************CLICK HERE*****************

  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Dalmatian90's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Posts
    3,120

    Default

    Thanks E40...

    That's really YOUNG! And I'm sure it's a definite challenge to get the few old farts to download all their years of experience into all the young bucks at ratios like that.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register