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First Responders at JFK Airport Unqualified to Handle Emergencies, Feds Say

By Murray Weiss | June 18, 2012 7:12am

MANHATTAN — Scores of first responders at JFK Airport are not qualified to handle emergencies, forcing the Port Authority to make the few who can do the job work overtime just to keep the airport open, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

Since the FDNY and NYPD do not have personnel at area airports, Port Authority Police officers are trained for both law enforcement and firefighting. At JFK, there are usually between one and four emergencies each day that call for the specially trained cops — from fire and rescue operations to SWAT team-like anti-terror responses — sources told "On the Inside."

Federal Aviation Administration investigators found that the overwhelming majority of the nearly 200 cops at JFK Airport either lacked the proper certification to respond to such emergencies or had seen their certifications expire, sources said. 

The FAA's revelation forced the Port Authority to yank those unqualified officers who had been working fire and rescue jobs and forced the certified ones to work overtime to cover the gaps, sources said.  The cops pulled from emergency duty were reassigned to more traditional police patrols and undercover assignments at the airport. 

The FAA requires that each airport has enough personnel to man the federally required number of trucks and vehicles for the airport. If it doesn't, the airport could be closed.

Port Authority spokesman Steven Coleman told “On The Inside” that the bi-state agency has “already initiated an accelerated plan to ensure that all JFK officers are properly trained and certified" in fire and rescue.

“We take this issue very seriously and are committed to clarifying and rectifying with the FAA all issues involving our training record documentation,” Coleman said. 

“We will continue to monitor the situation at all our airports on a real-time basis to ensure that this doesn’t happen again."

Sources told "On the Inside" that similar safety problems were found at LaGuardia and Newark airports, but they weren't as severe as the ones found at JFK.

The problem was initially discovered about two months ago when the FAA conducted an annual review to determine if the airport had enough properly trained officers to handle any emergency. Those officers are supposed to be trained annually.

The Port Authority spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on overtime staffing for the emergency posts that man fire trucks and other rescue apparatus to keep the city’s busiest airport from being shut, sources said.

A spokesman for the FAA said it “is currently reviewing a discrepancy in training records for aircraft rescue and firefighting training at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”  

Sources said that at no time, however, were any of the airports ever lacking in adequate coverage. 

Coleman said the agency has been re-certifiing cops at JFK and hopes to get all of them back up and running in the next week.