Union chief: Cameras in fire trucks interfere with emergencies

Union chief: Cameras in fire trucks interfere with emergencies

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ATLANTA -

A fire official says a video recording system mounted inside Atlanta fire trucks is already having a negative effect.

City Hall ordered the cameras, which monitor how employees drive.

The president of the Atlanta Firefighters Union, Sgt. Stephen Borders, said that the recording device interfered with a crew trying to answer an entrapment call on Saturday night.

Borders said that the flashing LED red light was a distraction for firefighters. That incident was handled safely, but Borders said critical seconds could have been lost.

The union boss told Atlanta City Council members on Monday that he had been assured by city officials that the camera program was going to be placed on hold for review. However, he said that fire chief was doing the opposite and moving forward with the program.

City officials said the cameras were installed to try to cut back on accidents. Borders said that firefighters have the safest driving records among public safety officials.

Janet Ward, the public relations manager of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, issued a statement saying, "From the point of view of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, the Drive Cams are about one thing, and that is the safety of our firefighters. Accidents while responding to or returning from incidents claim the lives of firefighters every year.  And statistics compiled by the National Fire Protection Association do not support the idea that buckling a seatbelt or stopping for a red light poses a threat to response times. The terrible events in Houston recently remind us that our firefighters face enormous dangers every day. If we can minimize those dangers, we are determined to do so.

"Stopping at red lights and stop signs assures our safe arrival without risking the lives of motorists, pedestrians and firefighters.  The penalty for first offense violations of seatbelts and traffic signals ranges from a letter of counseling to a letter of reprimand.  These penalties pale in comparison to the cost of debilitating injuries or fatalities to citizens and firefighters caused by non-compliance."

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