FDNY: Keep off-color remarks off EMS radio to avoid TikTok posts
EMS union president Oren Barzilay said the open mic incidents are unprofessional but may also be indicative of workplace stress
By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — New York City EMTs and paramedics were ordered in a recent FDNY memo to mind their p’s and q’s while relaying information over Fire Department radios after several rants and racy language ended up on social media.
“Unauthorized radio transmissions will NOT be tolerated,” said a memo to EMS officers dated July 31. “Failure to comply with this directive will lead to corrective and/or disciplinary action.”
The page boasts dozens of audio clips from city EMS, as well as from first responders in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Mercer County, N.J., among other places.
In one audio clip, an EMT in an ambulance rolling through the Bronx said says he’s up for his next assignment, even though one of his tires was going flat.
“You can show us ‘available’ with a tire that’s p—sing air,” the EMT says.
“So you’re out of service for a flat tire?” the dispatcher asks.
“Negative. As per the chief we keep going until it runs flat,” the first responder says.
Another clip involved a city EMT on a call about a woman who was having trouble seeing, but he didn’t quite know how to handle the emergency.
“Someone stole her glasses and now she can’t see,” the EMT says.
There’s also a racy “hot mic” incident in which a dispatcher talks to her colleagues about how she performs oral sex while not realizing her radio was still transmitting.
“You asked the question, I answered,” the woman says, laughing right before a colleague tells her she has an “open mic.”
“Where’s the open mic?” she asks before abruptly shutting off the transmission.
The posts are from old radio transmissions and are often edited to amp up the entertainment value, FDNY sources with knowledge of the case said.
Still, the presence of the sites are encouraging EMTs and paramedics to record unnecessary commentaries on their radios, one source said.
The memo, known in FDNY jargon as a “buckslip,” was also a reminder that unnecessary transmissions “can pose a safety concern to all our members,” the source said.
Along with the warning EMS members were given copies of the radio transmission guidelines to familiarize themselves with the rules.
Oren Barzilay, the president of EMT union Local 2507, agreed that “radio transmissions at times can be unprofessional and must certainly be corrected.”
But sometimes unprofessional behavior like unauthorized radio transmissions can happen with an overworked workforce, he said.
“Units and members on both sides of the mic are working under daily pressure, combined with the stress of the EMS work environment,” he said.
Tensions can boil over under stressful situations, particularly when EMS members encounter violent patients or disruptive members of the public in the course of their work.
Those flaring tempers have also been featured on social media.
In one testy back-and-forth, an EMT member repeatedly asks for a job to be sent to their computer system.
“Just send the job, I said we’re 63 [on our way], but we don’t have the job,” the EMT says. “Send the job please, we’re 63 [on our way].”
“You’re 63, I got it I got it! Jesus Christ, we don’t get paid extra for this!” the dispatcher shouts in reply.
Another heated exchange erupted between an ambulance crew stuck in a building as people fought outside and a dispatcher who didn’t understand their message.
“Continuous arguing and we can’t bring our patient out of the building,” the EMT says over the radio.
The dispatcher, seeming to think the crew was already in the ambulance, tells them to “move the ambulance.”
“We’re in the patient’s home, we cannot get down to our ambulance safely,” the EMT reiterates, asking for police assistance.
“We are unable to leave the location, everybody is outside fighting and arguing. We need an RMP [police car], please.”
“For the second time, the RMP was re-ques-ted,” the dispatcher snaps back.
Problems like those reflect the difficulty of the job — which unions representing EMS workers blame on low pay, long hours and other working conditions.
“We should always be professional,” said Vincent Variale, president of Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621, which represents EMS officers. “But what you’re hearing in some of these broadcasts are our members expressing their frustrations for a broken system and the city not doing anything to fix it.”