Assemblymember Cahill: New York Must Support Local Emergency Personnel

Assembly report finds state’s emergency personnel lack adequate funding, equipment and training
May 7, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced that he is supporting a plan to remedy the lack of adequate funding, equipment and training for New York’s emergency personnel.

An Assembly report, "First Responders: A Last Priority?," is the result of a March hearing in Albany on statewide emergency first response, which includes fire, police and emergency medical service. To address the key issues raised during the hearing, the Assembly developed the Terrorism Prevention, Preparedness and Enforcement Act (A.10543).

"The Assembly report found insufficient funding and a lack of equipment and training for New York’s Emergency Personnel. That’s unacceptable and must be immediately addressed by the state and federal government," Mr. Cahill said. "First responders must be prepared for every type of emergency, whether it’s terrorism or a natural disaster."

Working to improve statewide emergency communication

"When first responders cannot communicate, their ability to respond to emergency situations is severely hampered," the Assemblymember noted. "The Assembly is taking steps to remedy the lack of acceptable communications equipment as soon as possible."

During the Assembly’s March hearing, first responders cited inadequate, outdated and malfunctioning communications equipment as a major weakness in the state’s ability to respond to emergency situations. The Assembly has been working to develop a statewide emergency response communications network that would allow all state and local first responders to communicate with each other. A planned $500 million network for statewide agencies does not adequately take local agencies into account. The Assembly is also working to provide emergency personnel with sufficient equipment by:

  • requiring the Office of Public Security to consult with local first responders in providing emergency equipment to ensure that it is provided in a timely manner and meets local needs;
  • establishing a centralized grant office in order to provide one-stop grant information to municipalities; and
  • creating a low-interest emergency first responder revolving loan fund with priority given to municipalities that share resources.

Providing thorough and efficient training to first responders

"When New York faces another emergency, we will look to our first responders to take charge and protect us," Mr. Cahill said. "If training programs are not given proper funding and priority, it puts the life of every New Yorker at risk."

The Assembly’s plan addresses the training concerns of first responders by:

  • directing the Department of Health to establish a hazardous materials training program for emergency medical services technicians;
  • authorizing EMTs to complete some recertification training requirements by computer or video, making more efficient use of their time;
  • creating a state income tax credit for volunteer firefighters or EMTs who take the state’s hazardous materials training course or a similar course;
  • expediting the recertification process for EMTs who leave the state and then return; and
  • authorizing paper submissions required from EMT providers by the DOH to be made electronically, easing this filing requirement.

Fighting for more federal funding

The Assembly also passed a resolution urging the Governor and Congress to fight for New York’s fair share of federal anti-terrorism funding. Although New York was the target of terrorism attacks in 1993 and 2001 and is home to countless high-profile landmarks:

  • Wyoming receives more than seven times the per capita amount of Homeland Security Funding than New York;
  • Montana is budgeted for $9.07 per capita in Firefighter Improvement and Response Enhancement Act grants, which provide money for municipal preparedness efforts, while New York gets only $1.79; and
  • Under the High Threat Urban Area Grant Program, New York City receives a mere $5.87 per capita, while Miami and Orlando receive $52.82 and $47.14, respectively.

"New York is not receiving its fair share of federal funding despite our obvious vulnerability to terrorist attacks," the Assemblymember said. "Because the Governor has not fought for what we deserve, our local emergency response personnel are often forced to rely on outdated equipment and insufficient training.

"New York’s first responders – police, firefighters and EMTs – are on the frontlines everyday protecting our families. We owe it to them to ensure they have the resources and training they need to do their jobs," Assemblymember Cahill concluded. "I will continue to fight for our local men and women who serve the citizens of this state. The Assembly’s package of legislation makes first responders a first priority."