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Transcript: Mayor Adams Highlights Public Safety Technology With FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh

April 25, 2023

Video available at:

Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning. Good morning. Last week, a parking garage collapsed in Lower Manhattan causing multiple injuries and killing one person, Willis Moore. It was devastating to hear that we lost a New Yorker, and I was really troubled to learn that it was the father of a member of a service, a detective, who happens to be expecting a child at this moment. And I communicated with her and shared that the city grieves with her, and it was just an unfortunate situation that's currently under investigation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

But at the same time, we understood that when we responded to the scene, both the New York City Police Department and FDNY, the Fire Department, we knew that the structure was still extremely dangerous, but we still had a job to do. We had to find out if there were more innocent people inside the location and do as much as possible. And we needed to accomplish that task without putting other first responders in danger, and we were able to do that.

And I'm happy to show today, with the commissioner, some of the technology that was used. We rolled out similar technology a few weeks earlier in Times Square. Some people call them toys. This is not playtime. This is real time. And this is an administration that is not going to be fearful of using everything possible to save the lives of New Yorkers and to save the lives of first responders.

I said from the first time, time and time again, I'm a big believer in technology. And far too long, we have left some of the best technology on the table. We've left and allowed other municipalities to outpace us and to out-use technology because we were concerned about the small number of people who are afraid of change. We are not. We will use this to benefit and safeguard the people of the cities.

And the benefits are not theoretical. Last week, we saw it in action, keeping New Yorkers safe. For the first time in history, FDNY, NYPD responded with multiple air and ground robots working together to prevent the loss of life. It was the first time the FDNY put its robot dog, Bergh, into action. I thought it was called Snoopy, but okay ... into action.

The building was too dangerous for personnel to enter, so Bergh went into the building instead. Using his thermo camera, our robot teams were able to determine that no other person or no other individual was trapped, and also inspected building structural components. A combination of both Bergh, the robotic dog, and the drones, was a perfect team to come together. The FDNY, NYPD also have a combination of drones that could be used in these situations, and it was deployed. Working with the dog and drones gave us a set of eyes in the sky and allowed us to access areas the dog could not. That's the perfect combination. And that's why we invest in technology so that we do not have to send a human being inside unstable buildings. Instead, we can let robot dogs like Bergh off the leash, and to save lives.

Today, we're going to demonstrate the technology that was used at the scene. This is what precision rescue and public safety in the 21st century looks like. And I want to reassure New Yorkers, because there's concern that it's going to be abused, it's not used. That is not true. This is not going to be intrusive. It is going to be used on limited circumstances when we need an extra set of four legs or eyes in the skies to accomplish the mission, something such as search and rescue, evidence search at inaccessible locations, hostage incidents and public safety emergencies. These technologies are not going to be intrusive. I want to be clear on that. They will not be intrusive. We want to use it in the right way and not abuse it in the process.

I want you to thank all of our first responders for their heroic work, not only at the building collapse, but throughout the entire time of their moments of service. New York City is grateful for their service, and we are going to make sure we have the tools you need to do your job safely. I'm going to now turn it over to the commissioner of the FDNY, Laura Kavanagh. 

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh: Thank you Mr. Mayor. And as you said, while we might occasionally have fun with naming our dogs, this is actually an incredibly serious business. These devices are here to save the lives of our first responders, to assess the situation either before they go in or when they're in there so they can be pulled out. And they're there to save the lives of citizens by giving us additional situational awareness that we haven't been able to have in the past, so we know whether or not there's someone in the collapse. And so this is an incredibly important and serious endeavor for us to have these tools.

As you can see behind me, the Chief Ray Downey All Hazards Training Simulator and Collapse Simulator is a great tool for our members. They need to be prepared for everything, all kinds of dangerous emergencies, as this last week has shown us. We have had it for several years, and we continue to expand its capabilities, adding tunnels, an airplane, as you can see, and other features that we know will help improve the drills for our members.

Having this tool is incredibly important to our members' safety and helps us prepare best practices for all types of incidents. However, as you can see, this is physical training. We've now brought technology into the puzzle. And this behind me and the collapse this week are the perfect example of these two things coming together.

Technology works when the situation is simply too dangerous for our members or there are areas that we cannot access. Last week, we had an unique opportunity to utilize some of the newest technology, drones and our robotic dog, at the parking garage collapse, and we are very happy to see the results.

The FDNY robotics team is equipped with lots of technology that we believe can aid in our life and property-saving mission every day. Our robotics team was actually training in a high-rise nearby when the call came in about the collapse. The team arrived in about 15 minutes, just as first responders were being evacuated from the building because of concerns about the structural stability. The robotics members went to work quickly, suggesting that the robotic dog could aid in the operation.

Three drones were also deployed, one overhead to give a clear picture of what was happening on the roof, and two inside to assess the situation in there. Drones were flying to look for victims and for patients so we could know if there was someone else that we needed to find and rescue. The drone video gave a real-time picture of the structural stability of the building, things like the stability of the beams, info on the condition of the structures, anything pertinent that could be shared with the DOB to help with their response, so this becomes an inter-agency asset as well.

The robotic dog is outfitted with a thermal camera, and it can also help detect the presence of additional people who may have been trapped, as well as the structural stability of the building. Our robotic dog is key to member safety. It can go into areas that provide great risk to our firefighters and our rescue medics. It can also listen for what is going on inside, allowing us to hear a potential patient that may be asking for help. It is a phenomenal information gathering tool. Even though it is not made for rubble piles, collapse scenario is a secondary function of the dog, and its primary function is HAZMAT, but it was able to do this last week.

Our robotic dog, as well as our drones, were providing real-time updates to our incident commander, giving us information we would not otherwise have had access to. And our drones were not the only ones there. In fact, the NYPD drone captured video that's been seen in the media. And because this has been such a phenomenal inter-agency effort, I'd like to thank my fellow commissioners that are here behind me and hand it over to First Deputy Commissioner Caban to speak with you a little bit about NYPD's response.

First Deputy Commissioner Edward Caban: Thank you, commissioner. Good morning, everyone. I want to first begin by offering my deepest condolences to the family of Willis Moore, including his daughter, who we are fortunate to call one of New York's Finest. I also want to take a moment to offer my personal thanks to all of our first responders who responded that day. Each of them went toward danger without hesitation. Their bravery and devotion to duty are to be commended.

As you already heard, the multi-agency response to last week's incident was a clear demonstration of the strong partnerships that exist among our city's public safety agencies. This is especially true when it comes to the NYPD, the FDNY, Emergency Management, Department of Buildings and many others. And as Commissioner Kavanagh detailed, this rescue and recovery work was further enhanced by the latest technologies.

The NYPD has a long history as a leader when it comes to deploying new technology. We are always exploring the latest innovations when it comes to public safety and protecting New Yorkers. During the building collapse last week, the NYPD utilized what is called an indoor camera drone. This drone's precise real-time video served as our eyes inside what was a dangerous and unstable structure. Conditions were so hazardous it was unsafe for first responders to enter the collapsed building.

Nevertheless, we still had to find out if and where anyone was trapped. With the deployment of the drone, we gained a line of sight, both inside and behind the collapsed rubble, areas not visible from the street. The operator was able to navigate the drone through narrow spaces in between piles of concrete. And once the drone's footage confirmed that no one was trapped in the rear of the building, first responders were then able to immediately turn their attention to other aspects of the recovery effort.

A single five-minute drone flight relayed critical, timely information that would have otherwise taken much longer to gather and would have endangered many first responders in the process. This drone allowed our first responders to avoid undue harm while also carrying out their vital search and rescue duties. It is yet another example of how embracing technology and innovation saves lives. This constant pattern repeats itself across many aspects of our work in the NYPD as well as the work we carry out with many of our partner agencies.

New Yorkers should take comfort in knowing that people up here are and always will be relentless in their work to ensure the collective public safety. Thank you. I'll now turn it back to Commissioner Kavanagh.

Commissioner Kavanagh: Do you want to do questions? Any questions? All right. Demo the dog?
[Bergh and drone are demoed.]

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