The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is facing a serious fine after failing to train its police officers to perform rescue and fire fights. While the officers were appropriately trained as a police force, they did not have adequate training to deal with fire fights or to protect the public from a fire outbreak. The New York Times reports that the operator has agreed to pay $3.5 million under a settlement agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration.
In addition to the fine, the Port Authority is ordered to begin the immediate training of officers at four of its major airports around New York City: Kennedy International, La Guardia, Newark Liberty International and Teterboro.
The aviation administration found that while no specific problems occurred due to the lack of training at the airports, the danger it could have posed if officers had ever faced a serious fire could have been great. The New York Times reports that at the Kennedy Airport, the Port Authority allowed 77 police officers who were untrained for their duties to work 357 shifts from early May to early July 2012.
"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," Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator, told news sources.
The settlement also included the Port Authority agreeing to create a aircraft-rescue and fire fighting force. According to DNA Info, the agency is also expected to hire a fire chief to respond to emergencies – instead of relying solely on the Port Authority Police Department.
Paul Nunziato, president of the PA police, claimed that the move to create a new airport force was unneeded and that those officers in his service could take on any emergency duties, according to the news source.
"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, according to DNA Info. "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."
The aviation administration first became aware of the safety and training violations in December 2011. Since then the safety of every airport and terminal under the control of the New York Port Authority has been investigated.
Legislation and safety training standards are put in place to ensure that major hubs of transportation remain safe for the public. Fire and police departments working to keep these areas safe require the right safety training to meet with federal and state safety regulation standards. Providing required training is not enough. Departments can better avoid large legal battles by ensuring that the training records they do maintain are accurate, complete and legally defensible.