FDNY marks 25th anniversary of EMS merger
The milestone anniversary was marked with the celebration of achievements and continued calls for equal pay for EMS providers
By Laura French
NEW YORK — The FDNY marked the 25th anniversary of its merger with EMS on Wednesday.
The city fire department merged with the emergency medical service of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation on March 17, 1996.
"Combining New York City's 'Best' with New York City's 'Bravest' transformed our agency. We reap the benefits of the health and medical expertise EMS embedded within the Department every single day, especially in the last year as our members have courageously battled the COVID-19 pandemic," FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement. "Sadly, far too often we are reminded that EMS is a dangerous profession. It is a noble calling that requires expert skill and bravery. It's also a career that requires dedication and compassion, and those traits are displayed by FDNY EMS members thousands of times each day."
The department compiled a photo album from the NYC EMS Museum, FDNY EMS Academy and FDNY EMS members showcasing the work of EMS providers throughout the city's history. Nigro said that due to the pandemic, an in-person celebration of the anniversary will not be held, but expressed his gratitude and pride in the contributions EMS providers have made to the department and city.
"I was proud to serve as the first Chief of EMS as we ushered in a new era for the FDNY. I remain exceedingly proud today to serve as Fire Commissioner for a Department that responds to every call for help and works every day to save lives," Nigro stated.
In an op-ed published in the New York Daily News one day before the anniversary, FDNY EMS Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay said that while the merger brought "medical modernization to round out the agency's capability in responding to civilian emergencies" and provided improvements to training and equipment, FDNY EMS providers are still fighting for equal pay to their firefighter counterparts.
"Despite their heavy workload, the mostly minority and female EMS workforce recognizes it is being left out in the cold, and horribly underpaid, even a quarter-century after the big merger and EMS began fulfilling new commitments — via FDNY — to the New Yorkers they are sworn to protect," Barzilay wrote.
Barzilay noted that starting pay for EMS members is about 40% lower than starting pay for firefighters, and significantly less than what EMS providers make in other large cities such as Boston and Chicago. He also wrote that many EMS providers work more than one job, live 50-100 miles away from the city to afford housing and have a high turnover rate due to burnout.
"The needs of our EMS responders deserve the recognition of city and state leadership today. We must work together to support our workforce with compensation and benefit protections that recognize their importance and the risks they take for the betterment of our city," Barzilay wrote.