Meet the FDNY's latest rescue paramedics class, where majority are women

Stacey Sager Image
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Meet the FDNY's latest rescue paramedics class, where majority are women
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Stacey Sager reports from the training facility on Randall's Island.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- They complete a timed, 100-foot aerial climb. They lift a 50-pound crate head-high 10 times, then carry it 100 yards. And for the first time ever at the FDNY Academy, the majority of these trainees are women.

We watched up close, as this most recent class worked to become rescue paramedics with EMS. Of the nine in the class, five were women this time around.

And it was no easy task to make it here to the elite program at Randalls Island. Seventy-eight paramedics applied. There was a written exam, a practical test, and an interview. And these 9 were the only ones who got in.

Trainees spend three weeks here -- 120 hours of grueling training. Scenarios include racing into a "burning" high rise, rescuing a fellow FDNY member from a collapse and treating a patient stuck in a confined space.

Many of the drills are based on specific, real events that have taken place in New York City.

We watched 32-year-old Chante Kelly, as she multi-tasked during a rescue in the high-rise drill. Firefighters were begging her to work faster and she kept her cool.

"This is the nature of the job. You should be able to be a little tough," Kelly said.

But she can bring her skills as a mom to this job, too. When we asked her about her multi-tasking, she told us, "I mean, that's what moms do!"

Another trainee, Luda Muller, brings her sensitivity as a woman to the job, in addition to her skills.

"Let them know that we're gonna get through this together," she explained.

But make no mistake, she's tough as well. She tells us she was able to step out of her comfort zone and overcome her immense fear of heights.

Krista O'Dea, another trainee, who treated a victim in a building collapse drill, told us there's a comradery among all the trainees, men and women.

"We talk about work, we talk about equipment," she said. "We also talk about girly things!"

And O'Dea has some advice for young women, considering a career with the FDNY.

"It takes a little bit more effort. But that push, that strength, will carry you through anything that you ever wanna do."

It's worth noting that many of their instructors here are women, too. Meanwhile, their chief, Paul Miano, sings their praises, too.

Miano said the goal is, "always to be the best, when somebody else is at their worst."

And in this sense, the women trainees do very well.

"My wife doesn't like the 'man cold,' because she often gets her cold the same time, yet she's moving on and I'm laying on the couch!" he said.

Prior to this group, there were 94 rescue paramedics in the FDNY and only 10 were women. These additional five are expected to hit the ground running this week.

As for female firefighters, they are much more rare than paramedics. But earlier this month, the FDNY announced that a record number of women have now taken the Firefighter exam. In all, 4,181 women took the most recent exam. That's more than twice as many as the number back in 2012.