Fire Department wants to install first ambulance charging station in Maspeth

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Renderings courtesy Community Board 5

The Fire Department plans to bring to Maspeth an ambulance charging station that aims to keep EMS units at the ready without burning fossil fuels.

Representatives of the FDNY announced the pilot program during last week’s Community Board 5 meeting in Middle Village. In all, the FDNY wants to bring 21 ambulance charging stations to Queens, hoping that the first will be created at the corner of Borden and Grand avenues, where ambulances are currently positioned. To do this, the FDNY would need dedicated parking spots by these stations to allow ambulance access.

“Now it will be approximately two parking spaces, because the ambulance has to get in and out, [that] will be taken away from the public,” said Vincent Arcuri, chairperson of CB 5.

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As emergency response vehicles, ambulances must keep their engines running at all times in order to have their communication systems working, as well as the refrigeration system to keep the medication on board at specific temperatures. Each ambulance’s engine idling spews nearly 45 tons of pollutants into the atmosphere annually, according to the FDNY.

To alleviate this problem, the FDNY wants to create these charging stations to give the ambulance access to grid electricity — where the operator can plug in the ambulance — to run the communications and refrigeration systems continuously, without the need of idling.

“It’s actually, technically, not charging,” said Stephanie Williams, facilities coordinator for the FDNY Bureau of Facilities Management. “What it does is keeps the cab running so once they turn off the engine, everything is still maintained at its optimal level.”

“The ambulance pulls up to the station, the EMS worker comes out to the station, they run the cord to the ambulance,” Williams added. “Then they come back to the cab and turn it off, this way there’s no pollutants. So you go from tons and tons of pollutants being emitted, to now zero pollutants.”

Besides the loss of parking spaces, members of CB 5 were concerned if this new procedure would lead to increased ambulance response times.

But the ambulance operator does not need to get out of the vehicle to unplug the cord from the ambulance, so it does not affect response times: “The plug is a short power plug, it is not a twist-lock, but there is a locking mechanism,” said Paul Soehren, senior director of design construction, at the FDNY Bureau of Facilities Management. “That locking mechanism is deactivated when one turns the key. It will then kick out the plug, and there is an automatic retracing.”

It was announced that these charging stations are estimated to save the FDNY money on fuel costs, vehicle maintenance repairs and emissions. Some board members were optimistic about the plans.

“I am very glad that you guys are examining this,” said John Maier of CB 5. “It’s really unfortunate how much I watch these, when they are not called away, they are idling all the time and they are excluded from the idling laws and I think this is a great idea. It’s a great move forward to create less pollution.”

The CB 5 Transportation Committee will investigate the matter further and make a recommendation to be voted on by the full board.