With ambulance and fire calls on the rise, the FDNY is turning to new technology to improve its operations and efficiency when saving lives.
There were more than 1.6 million ambulance runs in 2015, a 9 percent jump from the year before, and firefighters handled about 3,000 more fire emergencies in 2015 than in 2014, according to the department’s statistics.
FDNY Deputy Chief Michael Fields said the agency is looking at new vehicles, gadgets and programs to take on those extra cases and already has been rolling out some of its prototypes and pilot initiatives throughout the five boroughs.
“We are thinking outside of the box and doing any type of idea that works,” he said.
The FDNY gave amNewYork an inside look at some of its newest tech during a special presentation at their facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Ambulance charging stations
The department gets frequent complaints about the noise and exhaust from ambulances that are running while parked between calls.
The EMTs need that engine on in order to be ready at a moment’s notice, and more importantly, to power radio and medical refrigeration systems.
“People don’t understand why we have to keep it running, but it’s very crucial to [paramedics’] jobs,” said Paul Miano, the FDNY chief of EMS Haz-Tac Battalion.
The FDNY has come up with a system where the vehicles will park in a special designated spot throughout the city and plug into a “charging station” that is about 51 inches tall and 7 inches wide. Once plugged in, the ambulance can run its equipment without any gas power and will cut down on 45 tons of pollution annually.
One station has already been installed in Staten Island and two more are coming to Maspeth and Woodlawn. The department plans to install 39 stations, which cost $12,000 a piece but are funded by a state grant, throughout the city.
Re-sized 'rescue medic ambulance'
One of the FDNY’s biggest tech advancements is its new, supersized ambulance.
Since last month, paramedics have been operating 11 “rescue medic ambulances” throughout the five boroughs that are 3 1⁄2 feet higher, 60 feet longer and four feet wider than the average.
Miano said the biggest request from paramedics was for more space, but the engineers decided to do more than just give crews additional headroom. The exterior contains storage compartments suitable for the equipment needed for every conceivable situation.
“By increasing the size of the ambulance, we increase the size of the equipment and increase the number of patients we can treat by 100%,” Miano said.
The truck can fit two paramedics in the front cab and one paramedic and a patient in the back.
Samantha Neverson, a paramedic who has been working in the new vehicle, said treating patients has been more efficient because of the additional space. The size and air horn have helped improve arrival times, she said.
“People definitely get out of the way faster,” Neverson said. “They hear the horn, then look at this thing and are like ‘Whoa. What is that? I got to get out of the way.’”
Miano said the department aims to deploy 12 additional rescue medics, which cost about $308,000 each, by 2018.
During high level emergency calls, the FDNY typically deploys at least two ambulances to the scene: one for treatment and another for treatment and transport.
Starting next month, the FDNY will begin a pilot program in the Bronx, which has the slowest response times in the city. The “fly cars,” which are modified Chevy Suburbans, will be equipped with medical gear and drugs for emergencies to treat high level cases and be manned by two EMT professionals. Although they won’t be able to take a patient to a hospital, the cars will still administer life saving care.
“We’re freeing up more ambulances this way,” Fields said.
The Bronx will also be the borough where the FDNY conducts its tactical response pilot program this year, which will add five more ambulances in the borough.
“We are looking at particular areas and we will see where we don’t have enough units, Fields said.
Warmer weathers means more people will be out on the water. Last year, the department responded to 2,250 marine emergencies and they are preparing for a large number this season too.
“It’s boat season so it triples the traffic on the waterways,” said FDNY Lt. Jim Lynch, who works in marine operations. “We need to be ready for anything.”
The department has a fleet of three small “bravo” boats at docks throughout the city and each one is equipped with tech ready for everything from a person overboard to an injury on a boat. Aside from a padded bed for treatment and top-of-the-line radar and radio equipment, Lynch said the boats also include a foldable ramp in the bow to interact with other ships.
In the fall, the FDNY added a 66-foot long, 90,000 pound, jet-propelled fireboat, the “William M. Feehan,” to its marine fleet. The $4.7 million “mid-sized” vessel can carry a full crew of firefighters to any emergency in the water and near the coast.
The boat has a top speed of 41 knots, 16 knots greater than the older model boats, it can shoot 8,000 gallons of water a minute and it is equipped with 200 gallons of foam and 100 pounds of dry chemical for fuel-based fires.
Eddie Weyhrquch, FDNY boat pilot, said the mid-size vessels are all designed to act as an advanced water pump, so firefighters who are battling a fire near a coast use water straight from the river.
“You don’t get a lot of these [gadgets] on too many rescue boats,” he said.