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New NYPD fire response protocol bans elevator use

Officer Dennis Guerra’s death exposed the lack of NYPD protocol covering instances in which officers arrive at fire scenes before firefighters

By FireRescue1 Staff

NEW YORK — NYPD issued a revised protocol that requires stairs to be used at all times while responding to building fires.

"Responding units must use the stairs," read a three-page "Finest" message in which Chief of Department Philip Banks outlines the new fire response procedures, the NY Daily News reports.

In a message released following the death of Police Officer Dennis Guerra, who died of injuries suffered after using an elevator to reach a high-rise fire, Chief Banks has advised officers to "walk up to a reported fire whenever possible," according to the report.

Banks urged officers who choose to use elevators to use their flashlights to check for smoke in the elevator shaft, stop the elevator every five floors to continue checking the shaft for smoke and to take the elevator no closer than two floors beneath the fire, according to the report.

Officers Dennis Guerra and Rosa Rodriguez responded to an April 6 fire in a housing project in Coney Island. They arrived before firefighters and took an elevator directly to the 13th floor, where the fire was burning.

They were overcome by heavy smoke when the elevator door opened and were unable to retreat. Firefighters rescued them, but Guerra died of his injuries.

Officer Rodriguez is still recovering in a hospital burn unit. Officer Guerra’s death exposed the lack of NYPD protocol covering instances in which officers arrive at fire scenes before firefighters, according to the report.

"We definitely took into account what [the FDNY] does when responding to fires," NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said. "Out of that conversation came that police would use the stairs. This is the safest way to respond to fires."

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Kamau Bright Kamau Bright Monday, April 21, 2014 1:01:48 PM How about "stay outside, control the crowd & let the professions handle the fires". Let the police chase the bad guys. That's a job that they want. In my city, the police try to get there first, so they can get a little smoke inhalation, a medal & a couple of months off. We're always telling them to get out & stay out...
Ronald H. Carboy Ronald H. Carboy Monday, April 21, 2014 1:17:12 PM The two policemen were aware of people in the building and risked their lives to save others. Police are to protect and serve which is what these two brave men did. They should be commended for putting their lives in harms way to save others.
Michael Cleveland Michael Cleveland Monday, April 21, 2014 3:50:18 PM Not wanting to argue, but the two police officers added additional work for the firefighters. How many firefighters did it take to rescue the police officers? What job would they have done if they didn't need to rescue two police officers who weren't trained and didn't have the proper PPE to be in that environment? What if a civilian needed rescuing? What if the rescue of the police officers hindered the rescue of the civilian? Did they really need to be IN that building? Was there a high potential for a dangerous crime being committed? Did they really risk their lives to save others or did they obstruct the trained rescuers from saving those other people? What those officers did is known in the fire service as freelancing. Freelancing is not well accepted where I come from. It gets people killed.
Cory Bernier Cory Bernier Monday, April 21, 2014 5:15:22 PM I have a lot of respect for police officer as first responders, as I do for EMTs, but just like bystanders as asked to do as they're told in a robbery, for example, so as to let the police, the professionals in their field, do their work...there has to be a line drawn between police officers' and firefighters responsibilities as well. What if a fire engine company, responding to a bank robbery, were the first to enter?
Blake Mayo Blake Mayo Monday, April 21, 2014 5:30:45 PM This is a harsh reminder for the need to stage 2 floors below the fire floor or floors
Joseph Woods Joseph Woods Monday, April 21, 2014 5:56:20 PM You had me until you had to downgrade VOLUNTEERS .I agree that more awareness is needed 4 POLICE OFFICERS but that dose not mean that they were not trying to do the RIGHT THING. I am PROUD of them.
Ron Nelson Ron Nelson Monday, April 21, 2014 6:04:31 PM What many do not realize that NYPD ESU officers are trained to complement fans supplement the FDNY in rescue operations of all types. It is a situation unique to NY City. The officers were doing what they were trained to do in addition to what they felt capable of performing at the time.
Ron Nelson Ron Nelson Monday, April 21, 2014 6:07:58 PM "Fans" should read "and"
John JJ John JJ Monday, April 21, 2014 6:41:00 PM You are a moron!!!!!
Kamau Bright Kamau Bright Monday, April 21, 2014 7:02:15 PM Highly intelligent response...
Jake Worstell Jake Worstell Tuesday, April 22, 2014 4:25:10 AM This was a high rise MD. You do not evacuate people. You keep people in there apartments and shelter in place. Had these officers done what they had planned and begun evacuating people they would have made the situation much worsepossibly killing any civilian they tried to evacuate. Cops are not trained firemen. They are very lucky they didn't kill any body else. It is a horrible situation that took the life of one of New Yorks Finest. Hopefully this was a lesson that was learned and never repeated.
Dave Williams Dave Williams Tuesday, April 22, 2014 4:49:04 AM I'm guessing you work either for DCFEMS or Detroit?
Nathan Carr Nathan Carr Tuesday, April 22, 2014 5:37:57 AM The loss is incredibly terrible, but seriously avoidable. No disrespect, but take the test!!! Stop trying to do our jobs! We don't do yours!
Kamau Bright Kamau Bright Tuesday, April 22, 2014 6:50:36 AM Neither, but a big city. Due to our social media policy, can't say which one.
Barry Souder Barry Souder Tuesday, April 22, 2014 7:12:40 AM Dave Williams what does it matter what city he work 'sPD should only do crowd control in fire grounds. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to PD but sometime they take away from real victims being saved because there bodies are the first to be found.
Barry Souder Barry Souder Tuesday, April 22, 2014 7:15:26 AM Kamau Bright agreed
Barry Souder Barry Souder Tuesday, April 22, 2014 7:24:34 AM i'm a retired f/f from many vol. companies who've ran first due city area's yes I'm hated by most pro's.
Gibson Gibson Gibson Gibson Tuesday, April 22, 2014 9:19:16 AM Were they supposed to stand on the sidewalk and watch as the citizens they were sworn to protect died while no one alerted them to the fire? Citizens these days have a tendency, in an emergency, to become paralyzed by fear, only acting when a person of "authority" tells them to act. These two brave officers arrived on scene and had a duty to act, and they did. I agree, they need training, to avoid riding an elevator to the fire floor, but to tell them they should stand and spectate, as citizens they protect are in grave danger is absurd!
John JJ John JJ Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:48:08 PM I am sure the philadelphia pd would disagree
Barry Souder Barry Souder Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:40:54 PM John JJ philly PD if not coming out of jump seat full ppe's & mask like you commented earlier are morons
Jay Mease Jay Mease Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:46:10 PM A very sad accident for sure and I dont see any need for bashing anyones profession , as being an elevator tech and a volunteer fireman / past chief going on 35 yrs I will add my 2 cents worth , I just wonder if this elevator control system had a working firemans phase 1 recall or firemans phase operation or due to the age of the system " grandfathered " ? by the sounds of what happened it did not , many buildings are of the age that codes that were in place at the time of install did not require that system and building code officers and elevator inspectors cannot make the owner install the system unless extensive upgrades are done to the building or elevator , its sad it may take something like this to change things such as the MGM Grand fire made fire service a code requirement instead of an option .
Christopher James Tropeck Christopher James Tropeck Tuesday, April 22, 2014 11:32:04 PM Stupid sorry to the police but i don't feek sorry its called the hero complex the police want to be the first in everything. HEY NYPD WHY DON'T YOU LEAVE THE EMS AND FIREFIGHTING TO THE TRAINED PEOPLE
Christopher James Tropeck Christopher James Tropeck Tuesday, April 22, 2014 11:34:10 PM Sorry police should stay to chasing down criminals and not firefighting or ems
Kamau Bright Kamau Bright Wednesday, April 23, 2014 5:33:21 AM Let me clarify one thing. It counties where there are volunteer departments, some police are volunteer firefighters. They will probably arrive on scene as police significantly before the FD arrives. But they have a sense of what to do & what not to do. In larger cities that have paid departments, police get very little, if any, firefighting training, they have enough on their plates. We (my co-workers & I) always found it hillarious watching police cadets come to the fire academy to spend an climb aerial ladders in preperation for chasing suspects on rooftops. That's about the only contact police recruits have with the FD. In the end, all I'm saying is perform the jobs that you're trained in, so you don't be a part of the problem, not the solution. The situation above is tragic, but sometimes through tradegy valuable lessions are learned.
Marc Stevenson Marc Stevenson Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3:12:04 PM I feel for the fallen officer's family and department, and hope that this incident - another of the same as there have always been - will get someone, somewhere, to revisit and change department SOPs. These types of responses by police officers create more victims for the firefighters to deal with. Now we have possible civilian casualties as well as the cops who thought it was their duty to go up and check it out. I understand cops getting there. I understand them getting as much information to pass to the arriving firefighters and then whoever might investigate the cause. But unless they have a hose, SCBA (with the training and certification to use it), irons, oh - and a pumper with an extraction team outside - then don't go in. As firefighters we promise we won't chase felons or pull over speeding cars. But as citizens we will give you any information we might have to help you do your job.
Wayland Slater Wayland Slater Thursday, April 24, 2014 2:38:44 PM Police are always telling "good Samaritans" who stopped a robbery or caught a law breaker to "don't take the law in your own hands, that's their job." As much as it saddens my heart and tears at my emotions, I can not condone these two actions. They said the protocols that PD were able to enter a building "two floors below" the fire. But the article, if I read right, they went to the burning floor. The people that were inside their apartments are safest. If they are in the room(s) that are involved, then it's already too late for them, The PD were I was at did help when they could. Some would help drag hose, help firefighters doff their tanks, etc. But not once do I remember any who tried to enter or even try to "vent" by breaking windows. Mostly they stayed out of the way and kept others the same way. Even when the Police Officer were Volunteer FFs, they knew what not to do.

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