Letters to the Editor

Truth revealed

Today is September 2, 2005. Hurricane Katrina struck on Monday, August 29, 2005. I have read and watched news reports from the comfort of my home and firehouse only to become increasingly incensed by the lack of response by the great FEMA giant.

Immediate response was made by the California teams for swiftwater rescue, but that has been slowed or even halted because of civil unrest. On Day 5 of this horrific disaster, the City of New Orleans remains under the protection of only 1,500 police, 250 National Guard members, and several hundred state troopers. The fire department is drafting out of sewage and corpse-infested water to fight the many fires around town, provided they can get to them. Both law enforcement and fire departments have been working for five plus days without relief. Police officers have said they have seen drowned colleagues in uniform floating by in the street.

They have been reassured the cavalry is on the way. Poor choice of words. Cavalry is traditionally on horseback and, ironically, could have made it from about 20 surrounding states to New Orleans by now if given five days to ride. Now FEMA has made a plea to career departments to send 1,000 two-person teams to Atlanta for a possible 30-day-plus deployment to the stricken areas. What about activating the remaining FEMA and state teams first before hitting the “Y’all come” panic button?

This widespread disaster only helps to reinforce and expose how we, the first responders of America, will be supported and backed when the next natural or manmade disaster strikes.

I am appalled that this is occurring 13 years after Hurricane Andrew and four years after 9/11. It took less time to aid those victims than it has these, despite increases in FEMA and state USAR teams and a supposed streamlining of the federal government under the sham-I meant blanket-of Homeland Security.

Wake up, my fellow firefighters and EMS workers. We have been duped into believing we will be backed and rescued ourselves by a bloated and bureaucratic organization that has not learned anything FOUR years after 9/11. As one police officer was alleged to have said, “Go to hell! It’s every man for himself here!”
Michael J. Lopina
Fireifghter/Paramedic
Will County, Illinois

Officers must set safety example

As a 22-year veteran firefighter (15 years as an officer), I appreciate and read avidly the articles on leadership and have learned much from them. However, in “How New Leaders Can Be Great Leaders,” August 2005, I am disturbed by the photo on page 125.

Although I believe fully in the caption under the photo, a truly great leader (or officer) would be setting the example during this ventilation by wearing SCBA and making his firefighter wear one also. In addition, there would be a roof ladder; one is not visible in the photo. Hopefully, there is a nozzle with a firefighter staffing it to protect the firefighters in case fire breaks through the roof during ventilation.

Great leaders lead by example and put the safety of their firefighters first. This photo was not a good choice for the article, unless it was meant to spark discussions such as this.
Wade Moline
Captain
Vernon (MI) Fire Department

Applauds information on fire protection

Ihave been seeing more and more articles on fire protection systems in Fire Engineering over the years. As a representative of the fire sprinkler industry (and a 31-year volunteer firefighter), I want to let you know that it is well appreciated.

A lack of knowledge or a lack of familiarization begets “fear,” and fear of the unknown can be the enemy with line firefighters and fire officers in regard to “systems” and their components. These articles are a great way to familiarize the firefighters on the front line with how systems work and what is involved to make sure they are in working order before and after a fire.
Dominick G. Kass, CFPS
Northeast Regional Manager
National Fire Sprinkler Association
Captain (Ret.)
Allendale (NJ) Fire Department
Former Instructor
Bergen County (NJ) Fire Academy

Hopefully, a lesson was learned

This refers to “A Voice of Leadership in Trying Times” (Editor’s Opinion, June 2005). I am just retiring as the lead instructor at the New York Police Department Emergency Services Unit Specialized Training School and take issue with a number of statements in the editorial.

To give some background, I am a 20-plus year volunteer member of my local fire department. My father recently retired after more than 35 years with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and my brother has been with FDNY for 12 years. I am proud of their chosen profession as well as their heroic efforts on a day-to-day basis. I have no ax to grind with FDNY.

I read with displeasure attacks on the NYPD, particularly the ESU, in the above Editor’s Opinion and also in “Helicopter Operations for High-Rise Emergencies,” by Larry Collins (June 2003). Only one side of the story has been presented in these articles ….

The problem FDNY is having with the City of New York administration is not unique to the fire service. Salaries, staffing, and equipment are problems that affect departments throughout the country …. The Police and Fire Departments of NYC routinely are without a contract and have staffing shortages and many other problems with City Hall. That is up to their respective unions to try to resolve ….

Regarding the “duplicative and inferior services” comment in the June Editor’s Opinion, the New York City Police Department Emergency Service Unit Specialized Training School is a state-of-the-art rescue training facility. Entry-level training is a week short of seven months. Training consists of the following:

• ROCO I, II, and III.

• EPA certification as haz-mat technicians. A second week of haz-mat training dealing with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) detection, mitigation, rescue, decontamination, and exposure treatment.

• Anniston (AL) Live Agent training and radiation training at the U.S. Department of Energy Nevada Test site.

• SCUBA open water PADI-certification followed by a second week of public safety diving.

• Vehicle extrication (three days), with Hurst and TNT operator certification.

• Three days of training in railway emergencies (using the two subway cars and platform built at the facility).

• One week of building collapse training, following all National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements for structural collapse technician.

• Two days of trench rescue training-again, meeting all NFPA requirements.

• Animal control, one day.

• Five days of training in hand, pneumatic, and hydraulic tools.

• One day of training in bombs-recognition and assisting the Bomb Squad.

• Use of onboard and portable generators, lock picking, tapping into light poles for electric power, elevator emergencies, helicopter operations (including a review of the joint NYPD/FDNY High-Rise Rescue Plan).

• One week of Emergency Physiological Technician training given by John Jay College.

• A month of tactical (SWAT) training.

• A month to certify as New York State emergency medical technicians.

• One week with the Department of Corrections for cell extractions and chemical agent training.

• One week with the Port Authority Police Department of New York/New Jersey to meet basic firefighting requirements for participation on the FEMA team NYTF-1.

All instructors are New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services general topic instructors. Haz-mat instructors have gone on to become haz-mat specialists. We have on staff two chief and numerous other ROCO instructors, multiple Hurst and TNT instructors, three PADI-certified SCUBA instructors, a New York State Department of Health certified course instructor coordinator, and certified lab instructors.

This is not a facility or staff that could be looked on as “inferior” to anyone. This should be a time when the best of all agencies team up for the common good. I never had anyone I helped rescue say, “Put me back; cops don’t do this.”

I agree there can be only one incident commander (IC). Emergencies in NYC have been divided. Situations in which there is no clear-cut IC should be revised to make one agency or the other in charge. A true leader (IC) should be able to look past the uniform and see where each department could do the most good. To say that almost 350 members of the Emergency Service Unit is a “duplication of services” in a city of millions and millions of people-and that is a major terrorist target-is shortsighted and narrow minded.

Twenty-three NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority police officers, as well as the 343 firefighters, were killed on 9-11-01.

It should not be implied that they were sacrificed because they were not provided with information about an imminent collapse. Neither agency would listen to the other, and it cost lives. We should learn from this and move forward together. Comments that perpetuate the battle of the badges do no one any good.
John H. Busching
EMT-P, Detective
New York City Police Department
Emergency Service Unit
Specialized Training School

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