For Immediate Release: October 10, 2006
Life Saving FDNY Equipment Found Unsafe by Top Chiefs
New York, NY - The president of the union representing New York City firefighters today unveiled a never before seen internal FDNY safety report and surveillance video showing a Manhattan firefighter being ejected from the fire truck while responding to an emergency.
The high-level memo shows that that since earlier this year, the top brass at the Fire Department have known that a manufacturing defect found in virtually the entire FDNY fleet was the cause of this serious accident, yet they have not taken action to fix this problem.
Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association said, "more than five months ago a New York City Firefighter was nearly killed while responding to an emergency. His injuries are not the result of a fire, but the haphazard condition of the FDNY fleet and Commissioner Scoppetta's insistence that response times are more vital than a safe arrival at the scene of an emergency."
Last December another New York City Firefighter was seriously injured when a door on an antiquated fire truck he was driving in popped open, ejecting him to the street, putting him in a coma. Following the incident with that truck, which was a relic from the Koch Administration, the UFA called for an independent investigation of the FDNY's procurement and bidding process for new fire trucks.
Mr. Cassidy continued, "When a firefighter is hurt in an accident responding to a civilian emergency it jeopardizes not only our lives but the citizens we are sworn to protect."
On May 2, 2006 Firefighter Thomas LaBara, responding as a member of Engine Company 7 was ejected while the truck he was riding in was heading East on Duane Street, turning onto Broadway in Manhattan. The door opened and Firefighter LaBara was thrown to the street landing on his back, with his skull striking the pavement.
Now more than five months after the accident, Mr. Cassidy is questioning why Commissioner Scoppetta has not taken corrective action recommended by the Department's highest ranking safety chief who lead the investigation.
In its investigative report, the FDNY's Division of Safety identified faulty door controls throughout its entire fleet of Seagrave pumpers. The problem it says is, "the door appears to be closed from the inside, but it is merely being held in place by the pressure of the partially closed upper arm latch into the latch pin. If there is a moderate amount of pressure applied to the inside of the door panel, the upper latch arm comes off the latch pin and door swings open."
In the memo to the Commissioner, Chief Allen Hay the FDNY's Chief of Safety said "Safety recommends that the exposed door latch mechanism in all Seagrave apparatus prior to 2006 be covered to prevent accidental depression of the upper latch arm into the half closed position." This would include fixing the door on virtually the entire FDNY fleet, dominated by Seagrave pumpers.
In the report Chief Hay goes on to detail that the manufacturer has in fact recognized this hazard, "Seagrave has redesigned the door latch mechanism starting with their 2006 apparatus and this new design will prevent the inadvertent closing of the latch doors." This means that nearly 100% of the fleet is unsafe.
The Safety Chief also called on the department to reinforce a policy requiring firefighting personnel to don protective clothing, prior to boarding fire apparatus for an emergency response and that all firefighters must use seat belts any time the fire truck is moving. To date, none of these corrective actions have been taken by the department.
Mr. Cassidy added, "One can only conclude that Nick Scoppetta is more concerned about response times than the safety of New York City Firefighters."