Chief of FDNY-EMS Demoted After Slow NYC Blizzard Response

January 6, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

BLIZZARD OF 2010: Snow is cleared at Times Squares on Dec. 26, during the historic blizzard that dropped two feet of snow on New York City.  (Phoebe Zheng/The Epoch Times)
BLIZZARD OF 2010: Snow is cleared at Times Squares on Dec. 26, during the historic blizzard that dropped two feet of snow on New York City. (Phoebe Zheng/The Epoch Times)
NEW YORK—Investigations abound in the blizzard of 2010 aftermath. Several people who needed medical treatment died due to slow response times from ambulances stuck in the snow on unplowed streets or a call backlog at the 911 call center. Others were injured, and many lost time at work as the city was stilled by MTA delays, streets clogged with stuck buses and cars, and rail service that was shut down for days.

Many fingers have been pointed as the city unfurls the mess of the slow response times to the storm that had been predicted.

The Chief of EMS command, John Peruggia, was demoted Wednesday evening.

“We have made some changes and, despite Chief Peruggia’s dedicated service to this Department, I felt new leadership was needed at this time,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano in a statement.

“Last week’s blizzard presented tremendous challenges for the Department that are currently being addressed with an eye toward improving performance going forward,” continued Cassano.

Frank Dwyer of the FDNY made it clear that the blizzard was only part of the reason for the change, and that the Department is making several changes. The position that Abdo Nahmod, Peruggia’s replacement now holds, not only changed hands, but also rankings; once a three-star position, Chief of EMS Command is now a four-star position.

“The department is going to review what went right and wrong and see what we could do better in the future,” said Dwyer.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has born the brunt of the blame and criticism since the cleanup began. In a series of press conferences in the days that followed the "Boxing Day Blizzard," the mayor became increasingly apologetic. By Wednesday of last week while speaking at a press briefing in Brooklyn, he threw up his hands in frustration and claimed that he "was sorry for everything." He has admitted the response was “unacceptable,” and tasked Skip Funk, director of the Office of Emergency Management, with diagnosing the inefficiencies.

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Department of Sanitation spurred by allegations that DOS employees intentionally sabotaged street clearing efforts. Republican Council Member Dan Halloran of Queens was approached by whistle-blowers who told him that supervisors at the DOS instructed workers to stall the snow plowing in protest of planned budget cuts to the DOS.

The FDNY is investigating the slow EMS response that led to several dire consequences, including the death of a new-born baby in Brooklyn on Dec. 27. Yvonne Freeman, a 75-year-old woman in Queens, woke up at 8 a.m. on Dec. 27 with trouble breathing. After waiting 90 minutes to complete a 911 call, she waited another hour and a half for an ambulance; Ms. Freeman passed away at 11 a.m. The backlog of EMS calls reached over 1,300 on Monday Dec. 27. As of Tuesday morning on Dec. 28, 168 ambulances were unstuck form the snow, many quickly becoming stuck again and 40 were still waiting for tow service.

The newborn baby that died in Brooklyn was born unconscious in a building lobby. The 22-year-old mother first called 911 at 8:30 a.m. She reported at that time the birth was not imminent, so the call was given low priority. The mother placed the second call at 4:30 p.m., at which time she was bleeding and the baby was crowning; the call was bumped up to a level two. When the third call was placed about an hour later, the baby had been delivered and was unconscious; the call was considered a level one and EMS arrived in 12 minutes.