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For Immediate Release: August 17th, 2008

UFA President Calls on FDNY to Add Radio Code for Improved Fire Safety

Leading up to the first anniversary of the tragic deaths of Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino at the Deutsche Bank fire, the President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association is calling upon the Fire Commissioner to institute a small but significant change to FDNY radio communications to address potential water problems at fires citywide.

Upon a review by the union of this fire and other FDNY fire fatalities of the last 15 years, a common theme emerged: The FDNY's traditional aggressive interior attack coupled with water problems.

At the August 18, 2007 fatal fire, New York City Firefighters were forced to operate for more than 60 minutes in the vacant toxic building before getting water. Before their hose lines were ever charged, dozens of firefighters had to jump out onto the scaffolding enveloping the building, as there was no secondary means of egress for them to safely escape.

In an August 12 letter (ATTACHED) to Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, UFA President Steve Cassidy said, "The UFA has no intention of asking the Fire Department to change its strategy or tactics as they apply to fighting fires and saving lives and property for the citizens of New York. I am asking that a simple communication change be made that we believe will enhance the safety of firefighters and fire officers operating on the fire ground."

He continued, "We recognize that it is difficult for the Incident Commander (IC) to keep track of time as he attends to his responsibilities on the fire ground. Therefore, we request that the Dispatcher be required to call the IC every five minutes requesting a water status update until an attack on the fire has begun. Once prompted, the IC will then update, via handie-talkie, all members operating on the fire ground of the current water status, i.e., "Five minutes, no water;" "Five minutes, no water should have it momentarily;" "minutes, no water - hydrant problems."

According to Mr. Cassidy, "Such a critical piece of information will alert firefighters who are operating in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas of the water status at a particular point in time." It will also provide the firefighters with something they currently lack, a timeline of how long they have been operating on the fire ground. He added, "Firefighters often continue to operate in dangerous areas longer than they should, not truly realizing how much time has elapsed."

The letter makes clear that the notification of the water status to all units on the scene by the IC helps the firefighters to determine if conditions are deteriorating and if it is necessary to seek a safer location or withdraw completely.

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