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FDNY removes 4 over response to deadly fire

Lucy Yang has the latest details.
April 25, 2014 8:24:27 PM PDT
A supervisor and three dispatchers have been removed from their posts following a fire in Queens that killed two children.

According to a memo from the mayor's office, a preliminary investigation found that EMS was not properly notified after firefighters arrived on the scene in Far Rockaway.

An ambulance wasn't dispatched until nearly 7 minutes later.

Officials also said at least two workers were not in their assigned positions before the call.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says it is "not acceptable" that ambulances took more than 10 minutes to respond to fire that killed two 4-year-olds.

"Since last weekend's tragedy, we have tried to make sense of what went wrong," said a statement from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's office. "Today's report offers the first steps needed to correct the mistakes of that evening, and the immediate measures outlined are appropriate."

The blaze ignited Saturday at a home in Far Rockaway, Queens. Authorities say it was set by the children playing with fire.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said an investigation has been launched into why it took an ambulance so long to arrive. The mayor said Tuesday he expects a quick resolution to the inquiry.

De Blasio also said the city's 911 system must be monitored constantly. In his previous role as public advocate, he frequently expressed concern about delays within the dispatching system.

Faye Smyth, the president of the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association, said the union supports the four workers. "The union will vigorously defend these four dispatchers to the fullest extent of the law and ensure their legal rights are protected," she said.

Robert Unger, spokesman for the Fire Dispatchers Union, called the incident a "tragedy." "Our hearts go out to the family in this time of great tragedy. The DOI report is preliminary and we are awaiting the results of the final report."

On Friday night, candles continued to burn in memory of Jai-launi and Anaya Tinglin. A relative of the victims said they are shocked that the city owned up to its mishandling of the emergency. Their focus right now is on burying the children.

THE FULL MEMO: The City of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Commissioner Mark G. Peters, New York City Department of Investigation ("DOI") Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, New York City Fire Department ("FDNY") DATE: April 25, 2014 SUBJECT: April 19, 2014 Rockaway Fire/Queens Center of Operations Introduction

DOI is investigating a delay in EMS notification in connection with a fatal fire in the Rockaways on April 19, 2014, where two children died. That investigation is ongoing. However, DOI has already learned certain facts that require immediate action prior to the completion of the investigation, including removing a supervisor and three dispatchers from handling emergency calls pending suspension. DOI has conferred with the FDNY, which agrees with these initial steps and has begun to implement them. The purpose of this Memorandum is solely to provide you with an update on these immediate steps.

Background

Based upon the past 72-hour investigation, DOI has determined the following:

? At 11:51 pm, the FDNY Queens Center of Operations ("Queens CO") received a 911/NYPD notification of a fire at 10-31 Bay 30th Street and dispatched fire resources.

? At 11:57:10 pm, FDNY on scene reported a "10-75" ? communicating that there was an active fire that required a two-step FDNY response: (1) notification to a FDNY Deputy Chief; and (2) notification to EMS. At 11:57:58 pm the Queens CO did properly notify the Deputy Chief. The notification to EMS was not promptly made.

? Between 11:58:58 pm and 12:04 am, the Queens CO received multiple calls from the field requesting EMS response. Records show that the first notification to EMS from Queens CO was not made until 12:04 am, nearly seven minutes after the 10-75 call was received. The facts show that dispatchers missed at least two additional instances requiring notification to EMS.

? Evidence shows that two members of a six-person team staffing the Queens CO were not in their assigned positions just prior to this incident and that the Supervising Fire Alarm Dispatcher ("SFAD") both failed to ensure proper coverage and failed to appropriately supervise the response by the three Fire Alarm Dispatchers ("FADs") who were working on the response. Each of these three FADs either failed to properly and promptly notify EMS when required or failed to take steps that would have prompted/facilitated such notification.

? Preliminary personnel records show prior disciplinary issues for some of the four involved in this response, including prior documented instances related to mishandling of fire incidents and a prior documented instance of failure to supervise.

? Evidence indicates that the Supervising FAD, and the three FADs responsible for handling this and other incidents that day all failed to comply with FDNY's Processing Calls Guidelines and the notification requirements in varying degrees.

? DOI has also developed evidence indicating that FDNY is currently out of compliance with State and industry standards for training of SFADs. DOI has further developed evidence that the Queens CO has a history of operational weakness, which appears to have contributed to this incident.

Immediate Action:

As a result of the above facts and others generated in the first days of DOI's investigation, DOI has recommended, and the FDNY is actively implementing, the following:

1) The Supervising FAD and three FADs involved are being immediately removed from their present duties and placed on administrative assignment pending suspension and other disciplinary action;

2) A comprehensive and immediate review will be conducted of the personnel records, including disciplinary history, of all staff assigned at the Queens CO. Any staff with callrelated disciplinary histories will be placed on administrative assignment pending further review by FDNY and DOI; and

3) A comprehensive and immediate review of supervisor training protocols will be conducted to ensure compliance with State and industry standards.

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