In a media roundtable discussion on Friday, leaders with the New Orleans Police Department, Fire Department, and EMS explained ways their department will ensure public emergency services will continue to operate despite the city’s first responder furloughs.
“Public safety is the most important thing here, and that is what we emphasized in our plan for the furloughs,” NOFD Chief Tim McConnell said. “It is crucial that we make sure the residents of this city, and the visitors of this city know they are safe. And we will send whatever resources we have… as many as we need to send… to ensure that.”
McConnell explained he plans to reduce his staff by taking 3 or 4 fire crew units out of service, but he will shuffle existing fire trucks throughout the city as needed to cover all districts.
Chief of New Orleans EMS, William Salmeron told reporters, he had to cut overtime and furlough administrative staff as to avoid cutting any EMS workers. He says he plans to continue the city’s normal operation by prioritizing EMS calls for service and commissioning privatized EMS service units from around the region.
“Our priority is to maintain our 911 operation and to ensure that when you call for an ambulance, an ambulance will get to you very quickly,” said Salmeron.
Salmeron explained he and his department worked strategically with the city’s CAO Gilbert Montano in finding reasonable ways to make cuts in the department. He says the plan is to also reduce emergency units.
“On the current plan that was approved, that would bring us down to about 18 units so from 22 to about 17 or 18 units. Plus, we still have some staff out with COVID and other illnesses,” said Salmeron.
The city of New Orleans faces a $150 million budget gap while Mayor Latoya Cantrell keeps the city’s businesses, restaurants and venues closed.
The city hopes to receive $150 million in federal economic relief money through the Federal cares Act. However, city officials say the city has received less than what was expected.