MANHATTAN — The Port Authority has agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine for failing to properly train its emergency fire and rescue personnel at the city’s major airports, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.
The settlement follows a report by DNAInfo.com New York that scores of firefighters and first responders at the four airports operated by the Port Authority — JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Teeterboro — lacked adequate skills to deal with potential life-and-death emergencies.
“On The Inside” disclosed last June that the FAA found the PA police, particularly at busy JfK Airport, were not qualified to conduct emergency responses to the landing of troubled planes or dispatch a full compliment of trained SWAT team-like anti-terror officers. As a result, the PA was forced to keep the cops who were trained on overtime just to keep JFK open.
“These violations were egregious and they will not be tolerated,” said Ray LaHood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary. “We expect all airport to comply with our safety regulations and to correct any deficiencies immediately.”
As part of the settlement, the Port Authority has agreed to create a separate aircraft-rescue and firefighting force and hire a fie chief to respond to emergencies, rather than relying on the Port Authority Police Department to continue to perform these critical functions along with its police duties.
The start-up cost for a new emergency response force would be minimally about $40 million, sources say.
“We expect the Port Authority to have trained safety personnel to ensure the safety of the traveling public and airport personnel, just like we have at all airports in the United States,” said Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator.
Paul Nunziato, the president of the PA cops, decried the move to create a new airport force to take over his members' emergency duties.
“We would put up our firefighting response against any airport in the country as borne out by repeated citations in National Air Traffic Safety Board reports,” Nunziato said.
“Our response provides the safest and most efficient method to address the myriad of issues facing our airports, including the ever present threat of terrorist attack, and we deploy more trained firefighters than any airport in the country," he insisted.