| NEW YORK, June 18
NEW YORK, June 18 New York City's fire
department will now respond to all reports of leaking gas,
according to a report released by the city on Wednesday, a move
that comes three months after a gas explosion leveled two
buildings in Harlem and killed eight people.
The new arrangement, which will route all gas leak reports
through the 911 system, is intended to improve response times.
The fire department's average response time to a non-fire
emergency is less than 8 minutes from the time the call comes
in, the report said. The average response time of Consolidated
Edison, one of the city's two main gas utility companies, is
between 20 and 25 minutes, according to the report.
The fire department will be able to disconnect any leaking
appliances and evacuate buildings if necessary. Con Edison or
National Grid, which between them manage more than 6,300 miles
of gas mains and service lines in the city, will continue to
send emergency teams to the scene to make any necessary repairs.
On the morning of March 12 this year, about 15 minutes
elapsed between the first report of a gas leak in East Harlem
and the explosion that destroyed two residential buildings. A
team from Con Edison arrived shortly after the explosion.
Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote
in an email that the fire department had already seen "an
uptick" in calls about gas leaks following the Harlem explosion.
"So we've already seen a culture change," she wrote.
New Yorkers have previously been advised to call their
utility company or 311, the city's non-emergency services
number, to report a gas leak, Adams said. The fire department
only responded to the most serious incidents.
Allan Drury, a spokesman for Con Edison, said the utility
had collaborated with the city on the changes.
"The Fire Department is best equipped to respond to these
calls the fastest and to protect people and property," he wrote
in an email. "But investigating the source of a leak often takes
the skills of qualified personnel from the gas utility."
The report released on Wednesday was written by the city's
Underground Infrastructure Working Group, and warned that the
city's gas infrastructure is "aging and increasingly fragile."
The report also discusses other proposals to repair and
upgrade the complex tangle of gas lines, water and sewer pipes,
electricity cables, steam lines and telecommunications lines
buried just below the city's asphalt.
(Editing by Jim Loney)