The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been fined $3 million for airport and firefighting violations between Dec. 2010 and June 2012.
The fine is part of a deal to resolve what U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called egregious violations, saying “We expect all airports to comply with our safety regulations and to correct any deficiencies immediately.”
The Port Authority has traditionally used a single emergency response team with members performing dual roles. The deal with the FAA would establish two separate separate teams — one trained in aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) and the other for police officer duties.
Rep. Michael G. Grimm, who supports the current dual response system, blasted the deal in a press release:
“The dual system has helped maintain high safety levels at our airports, with ARFF-trained police officers providing a second line of defense in emergency situations. There’s no clear evidence that bifurcation will increase safety; however, it is certain to increase PA costs. Who will pay for this? The people of Staten Island are already bearing the burden of the PA’s debt and mismanagement with exorbitant tolls, and simply cannot afford anymore bailouts.”
The FAA released the following guidelines for the deal:
Under the agreement, the PANYNJ agrees to pay a $3.5 million fine within 30 days. If there is a violation of the settlement agreement, the FAA will impose an additional fine of $1.5 million and will assess an additional $27,500 daily for each violation. In addition to the fine, the PANYNJ has agreed to take the following actions, with FAA approval, to address the underlying problems that led to systemic noncompliance with ARFF requirements at the four airports:
- The Port Authority will create a dedicated ARFF force to carry out airport-related ARFF functions with no collateral police officer duties.
- The staff will report directly to the Department of Aviation and be operational no later than March 31, 2014.
- The Port Authority will hire an ARFF fire chief and facility captains as soon as possible, but no later than March 31, 2014.
- The Port Authority will submit a curriculum for training to the FAA on or before December 31, 2013, which includes at least 75 hours of initial ARFF training and 40 hours of annual recurrent firefighting training in addition to Part 139 training, pertaining to an airport’s operational and safety standards and providing for such things as firefighting and rescue.
- The ARFF personnel will work a 12-hour shift.
- The Port Authority will amend the airport certification manuals for the four airports to include: an organizational chart; a process to maintain ARFF training records; and a description of ARFF operations, including shift assignments, personnel training records management, and Department of Aviation oversight.
- The Port Authority will conduct monthly internal audits of ARFF training and shift assignments and annual external audits to ensure that all ARFF personnel assigned to a shift are trained.