In a city with 40,000 residents and on any given day upwards of 100,000 visitors, eliminating 85 Firefighters and slashing fire protection by 36% cannot be considered SAFE!
If the city of Atlantic City is allowed to slash 85 firefighters from their fire department, the lives of the 40,000 residents, hundreds of thousand visitors and the fire fighters themselves will be in peril.
Balancing the budget by sacrificing lives and property cannot be an option. By cutting the fire department by over 1/3 the administration is prioritizing politics over public safety. The administration should not be gambling on lives.
Atlantic City has many high-rise hotel/casinos and many older homes. The potential for a fire emergency is prevalent. The ability to quickly extinguish a fire or rescue trapped victims will be seriously compromised.
In the fire service, fire fighter functions at an emergency scene are “task” oriented. There are certain functions that must be put in motion in the initial minutes of a fire in order to provide the best chance for a favorable outcome to the situation. Part of that equation requires the proper number of fire personnel based on solid industry recommendations and standards. Simply put, if there are not enough fire personnel on the initial response, certain tasks will have to take a lower priority or not be performed.
Our concern with these reductions and possible closing of two neighborhood firehouses is the change in response times for the initial responding units to a fire. These responses require at least a response of 25 fire personnel on the initial response, although the recommended industry standard is 32 fire personnel. By eliminating fire fighters and utilizing resources from another part of the city, the sheer mathematics adds up to a delay of one or more lifesaving functions. The fire will spread, no water source will be secured, and no safety team available for our firefighters will be just some of the myriad of challenges that an Incident Commander will face at a structure fire. Perhaps even the rescue of all the residents could be delayed resulting in injury and death.
Firefighters are susceptible to injury and death because of our natural inclination to get the job done at all costs, thereby having to over extend themselves to perform the necessary tasks because of reduced manpower.
With all due respect to the administration eliminating 85 firefighters will most certainly hurt the fire service.
Many statements have been made by the administration in Atlantic City that, plainly stating, just is not the complete story. Negotiations are always difficult, more so now because of the hard economic climate and the downsizing of the Casino industry. Negotiating in the media does not necessarily serve either side well. Both the administration and the union will claim that it’s the other sides fault because they are not willing to negotiate.
The firefighters have offered ways to reduce the fire department budget but unfortunately the administration has chosen to ignore the suggestions. For the safety of the residents, visitors, businesses and the firefighters, I urge the Atlantic City administration to stop “negotiating” in the media and get back to the table and honestly work with the firefighters to get through these difficult times. The fire fighters believe that they have offered avenues to ensure the department can continue to operate without reducing the manpower and laying firefighters off thus maintaining the level of service for the City.
Dominick Marino is the president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey.