FDNY union says ‘riding alone’ makes staff vulnerable as Alison Russo murder sparks EMS safety debate

FDNY union says ‘riding alone’ makes staff vulnerable as Alison Russo murder sparks EMS safety debate
An ambulance carries the casket of FDNY Lt Alison Russo-Elling who was brutally murdered in Brookville, New York (Spencer Platt/Getty Images and FDNY)

NEW YORK CITY: The brutal murder of FDNY EMS Lt Alison Russo-Elling on a sidewalk in Astoria has caused grief and anger among many people over the ever-increasing number of unprovoked attacks in NYC. The gruesome murder has also reminded everyone of what could have fueled the attack - FDNY EMS lieutenants are the only ones without aides and drivers when they leave their stations.

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Now, the FDNY union is making its arguments louder than ever before. 'We’ve been fighting this argument for years,' Vincent Variale, President of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621 said.

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Alison Russo-Elling death: Suspect Peter Zisopoulos was transported to hospital by her EMS unit in 2018

Alison Russo-Elling murder: Witnesses say suspect Peter Zisopoulos tried to hide knife after brutal stabbing

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This lack of aides or guards is attributed to understaffing of the department itself. Variales also said, "You have to fill the roster of ambulances first and then if there are people left over our officers can get an aide, but it’s difficult to make it happen." "With an EMS lieutenant, we are responding to all those dangerous emergencies by ourselves. No partner, no driver, no aid. Why?" Variale said according to a report by Daily News

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The troubling aspect of the murder is that one aide or one guard would have made all the difference. Maybe one of them would have seen the killer, Peter Zisopoulos, 34, coming toward Lt Alison Russo. That definitely would have made all the difference. And it's this realization that makes her death even more tragic.

 

The casket of FDNY Lt. Alison Russo-Elling arrives as hundreds of firefighters, EMS workers and other first responders gather at the Tilles Center for Performing Arts in Long Island for her funeral after she was stabbed in a random attack last week on October 05, 2022 in Brookville, New York. Russo-Elling, 61, a 25-year veteran of the FDNY and 9/11 first responder, was stabbed to death by a stranger near her Astoria, Queens station house.
The casket of FDNY Lt Alison Russo-Elling arrives as hundreds of firefighters, EMS workers, and other first responders gather at the Tilles Center for Performing Arts in Long Island for her funeral after she was stabbed in a random attack last week on October 05, 2022, in Brookville, New York (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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EMS Lieutenants travel alone in vehicles so they can get to the scene faster and begin treatment before paramedics and EMTs arrive. Unlike the FDNY EMS lieutenants who travel alone, NYPD sergeants and officers always travel to a scene with a driver or an aide who accompanies them throughout the tour that day. This definitely increases their chances of being as safe as possible. The aide also handles the radio traffic for that area if the supervisor is not in the car.

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Anthony Almojera is an EMS lieutenant at Station 40 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. For years he has been pushing for partners for those in his role, like Russo. "Whether it's an emotionally disturbed person, a shooting, a stabbing, fire, whatever comes into the 911 system, I'm alone. It's nerve-wracking," Almojera said, adding when asked what the city needs to do, "Invest in EMS," CBS reports. Almojera, who is also an FDNY EMS union leader, is calling for better equipment, bulletproof vests, and more staff.

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Variale adds, 'It’s very important that staffing improves so our lieutenants can have an aide who can drive while the lieutenant monitors and coordinates operations on the radio and type on the computer,' and that 'It’s dangerous to do all three things at once.'

What is also to be noted is that Lt Russo-Elling did not have the option of getting away in her SUV while she was about to be attacked. Her vehicle had broken down and she was waiting for roadside assistance to help her with quick repairs. 

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A first responder gathers at the Tilles Center for Performing Arts for the funeral of FDNY Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, who was stabbed in a random attack last week on October 05, 2022 in Brookville, New York. Russo-Elling, 61, a 25-year veteran of the FDNY and 9/11 first responder, was stabbed to death by a stranger near her Astoria, Queens station house.
A first responder gathers at the Tilles Center for Performing Arts for the funeral of FDNY Lt Alison Russo-Elling, who was stabbed in a random attack last week on October 05, 2022, in Brookville, New York (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Safety policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and now, with more fervor. "A review is already underway to see where we can improve and increase the safety of our members," a spokesperson said. 

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