FDNY appoints 1st woman as chief of EMS, 1st Hispanic as assistant chief

BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro appointed two veteran EMS chiefs to the top ranks in the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) on Tuesday.

Chief Lillian Bonsignore, a 28-year veteran who most recently served as Chief of EMS Academy, is the first woman ever to be appointed Chief of EMS.

She will now supervise 4,100 EMTs, paramedics, EMS officers, and civilian employees in the EMS Bureau, and she will be responsible for overseeing operations, planning, strategic initiatives, and logistics.

"Someday, in our world, we will not have to talk about the fact that I'm a woman or about it being openly gay when receiving a promotion like this," she said. "But today is not that day."

Chief Alvin Suriel is the first Hispanic member to be appointed Assistant Chief of EMS and is a 30-year veteran who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Chief of EMS Operations.

"My family are immigrants from the Dominican Republic," he said. "They came here in the early 60s. I was born in Washington Heights. I took an EMT course in high school, and the rest is history."

He will serve as Bonsignore's second-in-command.

"Lillian Bonsignore is a dedicated and proven manager who has ensured the next generation of EMTs and paramedics are trained and equipped to provide the highest level of pre-hospital medical care," Nigro said. "In his decades as a member of EMS, Alvin Suriel has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to excellence as an EMT, paramedic, and in multiple roles as an EMS officer. He will bring that same dedication to his new role helping to run EMS operations citywide."

Bonsignore was appointed as a New York City EMT in 1991 and initially assigned to EMS Station 14 at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx.

"She always said she wanted to run EMS one day, 18 years ago," partner Kim Bonsignore said. "And here she is."

An instructor in the CFR program during the terror attacks on September 11th, Bonsignore responded from Fort Totten in a convoy of EMS members to the World Trade Center and spent many days taking part in rescue and recovery efforts.

After being promoted to Captain in 2010, Bonsignore served as Station Commander of two EMS stations in Brooklyn and was promoted to Deputy Chief in the EMS Academy, in 2013.

Bonsignore graduated from the FDNY Fire Officers Management Institute (FOMI) and has completed several leadership programs, including the Naval Post Graduate School-Executive leadership, FDNY Officer's Management Institute, FDNY/USMA Counterterrorism Leadership- Combating Terrorism, TEEX -EMS Operations and Planning for Weapons of Mass Destruction and multiple National Incident Management systems courses.

"There are some folks out there, some young LGBTQ members, that don't maybe don't see this as a possibility for them," she said. "And I want them to know that there is nothing that can stop them from finding success."

Suriel was appointed an EMT in 1989 and assigned to Harlem.

Completing his paramedic training in 1993, Suriel was assigned to Stations 14 and 26, later becoming paramedic coordinator for the Bronx.

Suriel was promoted to Captain in 2010, Deputy Chief in 2013, and Division Commander in 2015, and Deputy Assistant Chief of EMS Operations in 2017.

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