Detroit firefighters heading to court over new 'no lights, no sirens' policy

Firefighters believe new policy puts residents in danger


DETROIT – Detroit firefighters are heading to court because they believe a new policy change in how fire and emergency calls are dispatched puts lives in danger.

During a Wednesday morning meeting with city officials, leaders of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association demanded the "no lights, no sirens" policy be dropped.

As part of the new policy, a Code 1 emergency is issued when the Fire Department knows for sure that lives are in immediate danger. Firefighters and emergency medical technicians head to those scenes with lights on and sirens blaring.

A Code 2 emergency is issued when the situation is not life-threatening and, under the new response policy, lights and sirens are not to be used. Firefighters said this classification is putting lives in danger.

"We're definitely going for injunctive relief," said Mike Nevin, president of the Detroit Fire Firefighters Association. "We want this stopped immediately."

Nevin said the new policy is dangerous.

"We've got plenty of evidence that this new system is a failure," Nevin said.

Part of his evidence is recordings of runs in which he believes lights and sirens were needed. You can listen to two recordings below.

Below is a recording from an incident in which people were trapped in an elevator:

Below is a recording from a shooting incident:

"This is a public safety nightmare right now," Nevin said.

Detroit police Chief James Craig disagrees.

"Commissioner (Eric) Jones' decision is prudent," Craig said. "It's thoughtful. Let's face it: The second-leading cause of firefighters' death is traffic collisions."

City officials said there were 17 crashes last year involving fire engines, but Nevin isn't buying it.

"I'd like to see the data on those accidents," Nevin said. "A bent mirror? A bent bumper? I mean, this is ridiculous."

"Seventeen accidents involving rigs that weigh anywhere between 45,000 to 60,00 pounds -- you can't win in that," Craig said.

It might ultimately be up to the courts to decide who's right about the new policy.

Detroit woman slams new policy

Detroit resident Sandra Bailey was visibly shaken after her house went up in flames last week.

"It's just hurt," Bailey said. "I just hurt on the inside. I lost stuff from when I lost my husband six years ago. I can't get that back. I'll never get that back."

She blames the Detroit Fire Department's new policy because her house fire was considered a Code 2, so crews didn't rush to the scene using lights or sirens.

"For them to have to stop at every light to get here, that's unacceptable," Bailey said.

Nevin is going after Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Jones for the new policy.

"I am not, as a 32-year veteran, going to allow manipulation of data, lies and (expletive) to flow into the public," Nevin said.

Fire commissioner defends policy

Jones defended the policy and said it's about public safety.

"We're doing this because it's reasonable and it's proven, and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to protect the residents of Detroit," Jones said.

He acknowledged that the system isn't perfect.

"I am concerned when we make mistakes, and that's why we're going to continue our process to examine these runs so we can get better," Jones said.

Bailey believes the policy needs to be examined and thrown out.

"They really need to rethink this before somebody loses their life," Bailey said.

Though the policy is controversial, there are no plans to get rid of it in the near future.

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