By Rich Bockmann
One day after a Metro-North Railroad train derailed in the Bronx, killing four passengers and injuring dozens of others, the head of the FDNY said the department’s EMS bureau was laying the groundwork to be prepared for future emergencies in Queens.
“The shovels in the ground are the ceremonial first step,” Fire Department Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said as officials broke ground Monday on the city’s newest EMS station at Queens Hospital Center.
When construction is completed in two years, the 13,000-square-foot Hillcrest Station 50 will be the heart of the borough’s emergency medical team, housing up to 100 EMTs and paramedics as well as the specialized response vehicles so critical in emergency situations.
“And I think that was never more evident than what you saw in the Bronx yesterday at the train derailment,” Cassano added. “The members of the EMS command and fire performed so admirably, removing patients so quickly in order to save lives, and I think that’s a testament to the commitment and dedication that the members of this department have.”
The commissioner said the department constantly trains for the types of situations that occurred Sunday when the Grand Central-bound train jumped the tracks just outside the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. Officials said four passengers died, including a nurse from Woodside.
Cassano said he believed lives were saved by the city’s response, and as the department is called on more and more — the FDNY responded to a record 1.3 million calls last year — it becomes increasingly important to invest in infrastructure.
“It’s staggering the amount of work we do,” he said. “We respond to more calls in a month than most cities do in an entire year, and it shows that our members need the best tools and the best facilities at their disposal.”
Some eight decades ago, when EMS operated under the city Health and Hospitals Corp., the borough’s emergency team was headquartered at the Queens Hospital campus, but after EMS merged with the FDNY, the training operations were moved to Fort Totten.
For the past six years EMTs and paramedics have been working out of several trailers on the campus, and Cassano said the new $19 million facility will provide enough space for training and bloodborne-pathogen decontamination areas and its central location will cut down on response times to areas stretching from Little Neck to Howard Beach and from Forest Hills to Jamaica.
“With these resources strategically here, they will be much more prepared to respond as needed anywhere in the borough, reducing response times and furthering our life-saving mission, he added.
Over the past dozen years, the city has opened 11 new EMS stations and Abdo Nahmod, chief of the FDNY’s EMS bureau, said “this is by far going to be the jewel of our EMS bureaus.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.