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