News article on PBA’s pursuit to keep members safe
Following an editorial board meeting with the Press-Republican newspaper in Plattsburgh, an article was written about the PBA’s actions regarding Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. To read the story, click on the link below or refer to the text of the article.
Union urges trooper-safety enhancements
Crown Vic gas tanks at issue
By SHANNON MacCUE, Contributing Writer
PLATTSBURGH— Since the 1980s, more than 15 troopers across the nation have died when their patrol cars caught fire.
New York State Police lost Trooper Robert Ambrose to a gas-tank fire back in December 2002, when his police car was struck from behind on the New York State Thruway in Yonkers.
These fires were the result of the gas tanks in their Crown Victoria police interceptors being punctured in rear-end collisions.
"We view this as a crisis," said Daniel DeFedericis, president of the Police Benevolent Association for New York State Troopers, meeting with the Press-Republican Editorial Board.
"We feel the New York State Police and Ford Motor Co. aren’t responding fast enough."
TASK FORCE SET UP
DeFedericis has been traveling around the state, campaigning to media about the union’s position on the issue. The Police Benevolent Association wants both the State Police and Ford to improve the safety features in the Crown Victoria police interceptors.
State Police Superintendent James McMahon has done just that by establishing a Crown Victoria Safety Committee, according to New York State Police Col. David Christler.
"I head the committee which is looking at the fire-suppression and emergency-lighting issues with troopers on the highways," Christler said.
"Emergency lighting is being looked at because we want to know why these people are running into the police cars when they have their emergency lights on.
"Fire suppression is the most important issue, though. We are testing out everything to make the vehicle safer."
What makes the gas tanks in the police Crown Victoria so vulnerable is its placement behind the rear axle. Most cars now have the gas tank placed between the axles.
"Because of where it is, the tank isn’t crushed in a smooth environment when there is an accident," DeFedericis said. "In a Crown Vic, the gas tank is surrounded by a hostile environment."
According to Christler, the State Police are taking measures to help ensure the safety of the troopers.
"We know the gas tank is surrounded by sharp objects and that there is the possibility that police equipment from the trunk can pierce through the trunk and puncture the gas tanks," Christler said. "That is why we had shields placed on the sharp objects that surround the tank.
"Trooper Ambrose died in December, and all the shields were installed by January."
But DeFedericis said use of the plastic shields near the tanks is, to him, like using a bulletproof vest that covers only about 4 inches of the chest.
He said State Police "weren’t responding to the problem fast enough, at first. Now they are just coming up with some small fixes."
The Police Benevolent Association feels that one way for State Police to improve safety would be to update fire-safety technology within and around the gas tank of the Crown Victoria by adding two features.
The first is a gas-tank bladder, which is a reinforced liner that is placed within the tank.
DeFedericis said the bladder is made of a bulbous plastic built to withstand punctures in case of an accident. Within the bladder is a foam covering that will help to lessen the amount of oxygen in the tank. The less oxygen in the tank, the less likely it is for a fire to start.
"We are currently piloting six cars with the bladders in them," Christler said. "We check the cars every week.
"The bladders are in the cars to prevent fuel ruptures and fires, but so far we still don’t know if it works."
Christler said Ford had tested 50 cars with the bladders, and they found the bladders to fail half of the tests.
"We have hired an independent engineering firm to analyze the data collected from the testing done by Ford and also the testing done by Fuelsafe (the company that makes the bladders)," Christler said.
"They are still analyzing the data, and it probably won’t be available until August.
"We chose an independent firm out of Mississippi to do the analyzing because we wanted it separate from the Ford analysis to avoid allegations from the PBA that the Ford results were biased."
The second product the Police Benevolent Association would like installed in all the police cars is a fire-suppression system, also known as a powder panel.
These are plastic panels filled with a fire-retardant powder like that in a fire extinguisher.
DeFedericis said the panels are made to shatter and release their contents when the car has been in an accident.
Christler said State Police are piloting six cars equipped with the suppression systems, and they have found them to be problematic.
"The panels are melting and breaking when they aren’t supposed to," he said. "Ford has also stated that the panels are not set up to stop fires."
DeFedericis said heat shields can be placed on the exhaust system, which is said to melt the panels when it heats up.
"It’s my personal opinion that they (NYSP) are just buying into the Ford propaganda," DeFedericis said.
He thinks State Police should act as leaders in the gas-tank issue and take swift action.