New Yorkers will now be urged to call 911 -- not 311, if they smell gas and the FDNY will have a much greater role in responding to reports of possible gas leaks, Mayor de Blasio ordered Wednesday in response to the March explosion that leveled two East Harlem buildings and killed eight people.
Now, any calls to 311 reporting gas will be transferred to the 911 emergency line, automatically triggering a fire department response. The city also will mount a public awareness campaign urging residents to call 911 —and not just their utility — if they smell gas.
The moves, giving the FDNY an expanded oversight over possible gas leaks with hopes of dramatically improving response times, are laid out in a report on the city's infrastracture released Wednesday.
The change will increase the fire department's workload, but fire officials believe it can be handled, according to the report. The department's current response time to non-fire emergencies, which include gas leaks, is under eight minutes. The average time it takes for a Con Edison crew to reach a reported gas leak is 22 minutes.
Previously, residents who smelled gas were often told to call their gas utility or dial 311, the city's information hotline. The fire department, which possesses the most suitable manpower and equipment to conduct a quick evacuation or ventilation of the area, would only be notified if the leak met certain thresholds, such as a multitude of calls or other warning signs, like a flickering of lights.
The plan also calls for more efficient repairs to the city's aging infrastructure and improved communication about potentially deadly leaks among the city's agencies, independent utilities and the public.Additionally, Con Edison, the utility which manages most of Manhattan's gas lines, may alter its procedures to notify the fire department of every reported leak.
"Mayor de Blasio is committed to improving New York City's infrastructure," said City Hall spokesman Phil Walzak, "and making the critical investments and changes needed to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, and maintain our city's competitive edge."