Vallone bill aims to lessen emergency response times

By Kelsey Durham

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has introduced a bill he hopes will help save lives by cutting down response times for emergency personnel.

Vallone’s legislation, introduced last week, would require the city to create and distribute a 911 information card to every household in the five boroughs that includes details Vallone said are critical to helping fire and police officials respond to an emergency in a timely manner.

The northeast Queens representative said the idea of the bill is to cut down on miscommunication that can often occur during an emergency between a caller and a 911 operator.

“Sometimes emergencies occur when you aren’t at your house, and maybe the person that is there doesn’t know the critical information to give to the 911 operator,” Vallone said. “If we provide these cards where the information is right there for anyone making the call, we could minimize a lot of tragedies that happen because people don’t know addresses or cross streets.”

Vallone’s bill comes just days after Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) introduced her own plan to update the city’s 911 system by requiring operators to transmit information they have been given by a caller to police, fire and EMS officials, hoping to cut back on response times by providing responders with all the information they need up front.

Vallone said the cards would include information such as address, nearby landmarks, cross streets and details about people who live in the home, such as a special needs child or an elderly person who might require specific instructions for being cared for in an emergency.

The cards are meant to help homeowners whom he said may panic during a fire or other emergency and not be able to clearly remember the necessary information to give to a 911 operator, but Vallone also said the cards would benefit baby-sitters or house-sitters who may need to make an emergency call while at a home they are not familiar with.

“If my mother is watching my kids or if I’m visiting a friend’s home, we might not know addresses or cross streets off hand,” he said. “This card would provide that information.”

He said the bill, which stemmed from a recent oversight hearing he attended regarding delays in the city’s emergency response system, has not yet seen any real opposition, and former FDNY commissioner Salvatore Cassano also previously showed support for the bill.

The councilman said he also looks forward to meeting with newly appointed commissioner Daniel Nigro and filling him in on the basis of the legislation and said he hopes the FDNY will be interested in helping to decide what information should be included in order to maximize the help a caller can give a 911 operator.

“We’ll start with the basic information and go from there,” Vallone said.

The councilman is also hoping to find a way to minimize costs for producing the cards by having them available online for homeowners to download or print out.

Vallone said he is waiting to find out when hearings will be scheduled on the bill but hopes to push the legislation through quickly.

“It’s just one of those common sense scenarios to do this,” he said.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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