Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Now It's Fire Boxes

(warning- contains much sarcasm)

The way you know its not us but "them" is by sitting back and letting "them" shoot themselves in the foot.

All this happy and cheer and let's all be friends have given "them" too much time to find something else to complain about.

In this weeks Suburbanite, the "them" made an issue about having emergency fire boxes in town.

Could "them" have picked a more innocuous (and cheap) safety device to criticize and bellyache about?

Why not critique the fire department for purchasing fire hoses, after all how many hoses do we need?

Maybe we don't even need a fire department (tongue in cheek for my serious readers). We spend 9 million dollars a year for the fire department- if two or three of the taxpayers homes burn down, we can pay $1.5 million and still save money left over (Sohn, start crunching the numbers).

Maybe we shouldn't pave streets anymore. Think how much money we could save? There would be no pot holes, less painting, slower traffic and we wouldn't need a police detail when PSE+G is digging up our dirt roads.

The point is, I realize we are all different people with many opinions, but do we always have to give credibility and press to the nuts?


Anonymous said...

Larry Robertson is a DRUNK!!

Yoni said...

I think he had something of a point - are fire boxes really useful in the age of cell phones. Whether you agree with it or not it's worth exploring.

If I remember the what article says, the fire chief said they were useful & that ended the discussion.

We should explore any way to cut down on spending to lower our taxes. If it doesn't work it doesn't but don't criticize the guy for trying.

Swiggle said...

I think he had something of a point - are fire boxes really useful in the age of cell phones.

If you were around about 7 years ago in September, you may have remembered that no too far away from Teaneck there was a situation that knocked out cell phone service for a good long while.

A little redundancy in a system that's meant to save lives is not stupid and well worth criticizing Yoni.

Yoni said...

I didn't say it was stupid I just said that the guy shouldn't be criticisized for raising the question.

I was not in the country in September 01. I remember cell phones going out during the blackout of 2003 but I didn't know that they went out on Sept. 11.

Swiggle said...

I was not in the country in September 01. I remember cell phones going out during the blackout of 2003 but I didn't know that they went out on Sept. 11.

To be fair, I was actually at the towers (not in Teaneck) at the time...but it took me several hours before I was able to make a phone call. Nevertheless, considering a house exploded last night in Teaneck, I'm going to say erring on the side of caution is still the best policy.

Alan Sohn said...

I don't disagree with asking the question. Art Vatsky has raised a number of important issues -- such as the poor quality of the Cedar Lane sidewalk concrete, the choice of boilers in the Rodda Center and a potpourri of other efficiency issues -- and this one is no different.

I don't doubt that the fire box system costs little to maintain and operate. My handy-dandy analysis of the costs involved (crunch numbers here) puts it under a quarter per resident per year. It might not be worth it to create the system if it didn't exist, but the numbers cited for annual maintenance make it a no-brainer to keep.

My bigger question is how it's used.

Very few residents seem to know that these boxes exist. Those that know about them seem to know little about what they can be used for.

Call boxes in New York City had been upgraded years ago to have people a calling in an alarm speak to a dispatcher after pulling the lever. Not only would this cut down on false alarms (the main goal in the city), but it allows a far better decision as to which resources to send when an alarm is called in. If (as I assume) the system can't be readily upgraded to accommodate voice communication, would it be possible to add two more buttons; one for police and one for medical emergencies. The Teaneck Fire Department can certainly put out fires, and it can handle many types of health-related calls, but they are the wrong people to show up if there is an armed robbery, burglary or car theft and residents may benefit from TVAC showing up in many medical situations.

Deputy Chief Robertson's stats were that the boxes were used 55 times in 2007, but 22 of the uses (40%) were for non-fires. Might there be a way to distinguish between differing types of exigent situations.

While the existing system may be ideal for reporting fires, it might be possible (if the price is right) to upgrade the network to allow for even better service to residents.

But before making any changes to the system, much more cost-effective steps should be taken to allow residents to use the existing call boxes effectively.

At the least, all residents and businesses should be notified of where there nearest call box is. Perhaps a sticker can be sent to each resident (customized for their address) showing the location of the closest alarm. Set up the township's website to allow residents to enter their address and find the nearest unit. Residents should be told that these boxes can be used for any kind of emergency, not just for fires.

I agree that the system should be kept. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't look at every penny our Township spends and see if our resources can be used more effectively.

Alan Sohn

Teaneck said...

Alan Sohn said...

I agree that the system should be kept. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't look at every penny our Township spends and see if our resources can be used more effectively.

You've been hanging around with Larry Robertson too much.

Where have you been for the past 2 years? Aren't you a member of the Financial Advisory Board to the Township Council?

Alan Sohn said...

Where have you been for the past 2 years?

I've been looking at every penny our Township spends and seeing if our resources can be used more effectively.

Alan Sohn

Anonymous said...

To me this is Mayor Farker's attempt to break up the fire department. Start one piece at a time.

Anonymous said...

Who is Mayor Farker?

Anonymous said...

The Parker part of the Council has never met a saving for the tax payer that she could endorse.

Must be Mayor Feit and Councilmen Mohammed, Adam and Elie that would be looking to make cuts.

So drop the Farker nonsense. It implies cooperation on behalf of the tax payers that isn't going to be there now anymore than during Katz's mayoralty.

Tom Abbott said...

Anonymous said...
The Parker part of the Council has never met a saving for the tax payer that she could endorse.

Keep in mind that the anonymous feel free to tell whatever lie suits their purpose.

Anonymous said...

July 20, 2008
As Gas Prices Rise, Police Turn to Foot Patrols
SUWANEE, Ga. — People around here are seeing a lot more of Officer Robert Stewart.

Following strict new orders, he frequently leaves his squad car, hopping out to visit a bartender, then a barber, then a bank teller who squealed and clapped her hands, demanding to see the latest photograph of his son.

As gasoline soars past the $4-a-gallon mark, police chiefs in towns and cities across the country are ordering their officers out of the car and onto their feet in a budgetary scramble.

“It’s changing the way we police,” said Chief Mike Jones of the Suwanee Police Department, who has asked his officers to walk for at least one hour of every shift. “We’re going to have to police smarter than we have in the past.”

Chief Jones budgeted about $60,000 for fuel in the fiscal year that ended last month; the department spent $94,000. This year, he budgeted $163,000 — a large line item in a budget of $3.8 million.

The Houston Police Department exceeded its gasoline budget of $8.7 million last year and expects to spend $11.3 million this year. San Diego, which budgets fuel costs citywide, already expects to exceed its budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 by $1.5 million.

Departments have switched to lower octane gasoline and installed G.P.S. receivers in patrol cars to make dispatching more efficient. State troopers have gone from cruising the highways to sitting and monitoring traffic in “stationary patrols.”

The State Highway Patrol in Missouri plans to increase its use of single-engine airplanes to look for speeders. In Marietta, Ga., the police department is working out a policy for its new T3 Personal Mobility Vehicles, a battery-powered cross between a Segway and a scooter. In Cook County, Ill., sheriff’s deputies have mothballed their cars in favor of bicycles. And the New York City Police Department acquired 20 hybrid cars this month.

Other agencies have increased penalties for false alarms, stopped responding to 911 calls if they are determined not to be emergencies or put two officers in some cars.

But one of the most popular fuel conservation measures has been the simplest: walking. Or as Chief Frank Hooper of Gainesville, Ga., put it in a memorandum, “walk and talk.”

The old-fashioned foot patrol has gone in and out of vogue. But in the last decade or so, the use of ever more refined mapping to pinpoint criminal hotspots has lent itself to the practice. Many departments at least pay lip service to the idea of community policing, in which officers get to know residents, develop contacts and tackle problems that fall outside the traditional realm of police work. Police chiefs who are particularly devoted to the community policing model say gasoline prices are helping to push their officers in that direction.

“I’ve always had a theory that one of the greatest inventions was police cars, because it made us more mobile,” Chief Hooper said. “And one of the worst inventions was air-conditioning, because we rolled our windows up.”

Chief Hooper said he had always encouraged his officers to get out and talk to residents. But under the threat of losing the privilege of taking home patrol cars because of high gas prices, Gainesville officers cut their gas consumption by 10 percent last month compared with June 2007. They have walked the town square, the malls and, at night, abandoned buildings.

Officer Adam Crenshaw said he did not mind escaping his car or even sitting in one place to monitor traffic. “Being stationary, you see a lot more,” he said. “I’m able to see a lot more child restraint violations.”

In Suwanee, Officer Stewart said that walking and talking suited his natural inclinations and helped him work cases. Restaurant workers, he said, “have intel on all kinds of stuff. They know who’s doing what. They know about drugs coming into the city.”

He said building relationships can help save on gasoline costs, too. He passes out his cellphone number and e-mail address and can handle business in ways that do not involve getting into his car.

But not all officers have been so easily lured out of their cars.

“The average officer thinks that if they’re constantly on the move, they’re doing a better job of preventing an incident from occurring,” said Chief Ric Moss of Woodstock, Ga. “Candidly some of them have said, ‘Well, gee, you know, it’s hot out there.’ Well, if you go in that store, you’ll cool off, you’ll get to know the manager and you’ll get your presence known. We’ve had to educate them as to the benefits.”

One officer on a bicycle has already caught a thief in the act of stripping copper from an abandoned building, Chief Moss said. “How you measure how much crime you prevented, that’s always a question,” he said. “But if we’re getting into areas that we’re not getting into with a motor vehicle, I’m satisfied.”

Departments that have limited car patrols say that they have seen no effect on crime or citations or that it is too soon to tell. They say that the public has been apprehensive when changes have been announced, but that the reaction to more accessible police officers has been positive.

At Taco Mac, a restaurant in Suwanee where Officer Stewart was greeted with hugs and a Diet Coke, the manager, Steve Helms, said he would rather have an officer in his bar than cruising the streets in a marked car.

“We stay open the latest in the entire city,” Mr. Helms said. “It’s a deterrent.”

Still, some jurisdictions have resisted any notion of restricting patrols. “I have one beat alone in the northeastern division that is larger than the city of San Francisco,” said Detective Gary Hassen of the San Diego Police Department. “To say, ‘Gee, are you going to walk that?’ — it would be impossible.”

George Kelling, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University and a longtime proponent of community policing, said police departments that clung to their cars were missing the point.

“There are areas even in suburban areas where citizens congregate, and it seems to me that we would want to have police officers in areas where people congregate,” Professor Kelling said. “You can increase and decrease the number of police riding around in cars, and the public can’t tell the difference. You can increase the number of police out interacting with the community, and people can tell the difference very quickly.”

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Robert Herguth from Chicago.

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Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Anonymous said...

I think we should start calling this blog Teaneck Trudolph.

Anonymous said...

Miss him already.

Yoni said...

It's really annoying when people post entire articles to the blog. Is there a way we can limit the amount of words on a posting. If you want to send an article to all the readers you should send a link, not copy & paste the entire thing.

Anonymous said...

I witnessed an accident with injuries recently and pulled a fire box on the corner right at the scene. FD, police and ambulance arrived quickly. Often when one calls 911 from a cell phone the call is routed through the state police, depending on call volume. Getting to a local dispatch center can take as many as 30-60 seconds or more. TFD gets box pull location in less than 20 seconds.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the operative word for the meaningless pontification on Teaneck Progress is the four letter one used twice in the penultimate sentence.

esther said...

Is it paranoia or merely technological incompetence that prevents you from registering and posting your commentary directly on Teaneck Progress?

Anonymous said...


As the saying goes, there's no bad press - just make sure you spell my name right!

Anonymous said...

Just put the anonymous choice back.

esther said...

You can register and call yourself anything you want. How is that different from being anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Tried. Doesn't work. Send directions.

esther said...

Anyone with a Google account can post comments.

No Google Account? Sign up here.

After you have signed up for a Google account, type your comment snd under Choose an identity, select Google/Blogger and enter your username and password.


Anonymous said...

Why the detailed instructions. I think that there are some people who are too intellectually challenged to be participating at Teaneck Progress. It is hard to accept that including people with limited sources of knowledge is a worthwhile policy goal. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that blogging may not be right for all people.

Anonymous said...

Can we get a discussion going about the horrible attitudes of the people going out to do inspections for Teaneck. I have heard from citizens in every part of town about a "gotcha" negativity rather than a positive helpful approach by numerous inspectors. Also contractors of all kinds have reported that absurd demands are made in Teaneck by the inspectors that are not made in any other town in Bergen County.

mskj said...

I respectfully disagree on the comment complaining about the inspections. Having done work on my own house in the past 20 years, as well as known neighbors and friends who have renovated both legally and illegally (without permits), I take comfort in knowing that the safety standards of the building department are very high. If anything, our building department is understaffed and overworked, housed in a crummy basement office and this should be a top priority of the Town Council and manager to correct.

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