STORY BY JANIE ROSMAN
What better way for fire and emergency services personnel to kick-start the New Year than with a meeting about safety features on the new bridge?
About 80 members of the Rockland County Fire Chief’s Association learned how its lane configurations and water system would aid their all-volunteer services.
“It was a great program, and all of the members at the meeting took some good information away from it,” RCFCA President Harold Straut said of Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare’s presentation. “This is such a large project that will affect Rockland County, especially rescue personnel, and I felt it would be beneficial for fire services.”
Formed in 1952 so the fire chiefs and officers could meet on a regular basis to talk about fire service concerns in their county, the association’s membership grew from 37 charter members to more than 600. Its monthly meetings cover events, training issues, ideas, scheduling educational fire, rescue, and leadership-based seminars, and any other issues affecting Rockland’s emergency services.
Many fire personnel cross the bridge for work, “and it’s important for them to know about the project and the new bridge,” Straut noted.
Project officials sought input from fire departments, including several RCFCA members in Tarrytown and Central Nyack, law enforcement, EMS teams and municipal agencies to help identify safety and security issues. Teams bidding for the project nearly three years ago had to respond to very specific safety requirements in the state’s Request For Proposal.
“It was a pleasure meeting with the Rockland County Fire Chiefs Association to give an update on the remarkable progress being made on the New NY Bridge project and answer questions. From the planning to the design and now construction of the new bridge, the project team continues to meet proactively with local fire, police and other emergency personnel to get their input and ideas on how to enhance and ensure safety for the traveling public and for the first responders themselves.” — Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare
Of specific interest were the safety nets underneath the viewing areas, the lane configurations and the new bridge’s water system. Four graded turnarounds will operate much like crossings in preparation for light rail.
Nanuet Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Ready, who commutes to Elmsford, appreciated the presentation and hearing about the new safety additions.
“It was very informative, and a push in the right direction towards safety,” Ready said. “I didn’t know there would be two spans or how they’re building the first one, then shifting traffic, and taking down the bridge, then building the second span,” he said.
Ready explained fire departments use a standpipe, like those outside high rise buildings, and open a valve through which water flows from the tanker truck.
The new bridge will have a fire department connection with valves at each end that allows water to flow through pipes directly to hydrants. Staggered on the inside and outside lanes at 350-feet intervals and not more than 175 feet apart, hydrants will be fed from a dry system (not filled with water until needed) in winter and a water-pumped system during summer months.
These all-volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel protect and answer the call in all weather, and last Sunday’s freezing rain was an extreme example of what they can encounter, Straut said. They’ve a two-fold concern: getting to the firehouse, and once there, response time is compromised because of road conditions.
“That is one of the reasons we had the presentation on the new bridge,” he said. “It not only affects us now (rescues and accidents during construction) but we need to learn what it will be for us as they progress and when it is completed.”