By Battalion Chief Gregory G. Sutton
Titusville Fire & Emergency Services
Today our newest personnel received challenge coins signifying the successful completion of their firefighter bailout training. This equipment, this training could one day save their life, but this is not just a “challenge coin.” This coin is one memorializing Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo.
In January 2005, Joey responded to a tenement fire in the Bronx with Rescue 3. This day would come to be known as “Black Sunday” in FDNY history as three firefighters died that day in the line of duty. Due to illegal partitions and blocked fire escapes, Ladder Co. 27 and Rescue 3 became trapped on the top floor of this Bronx tenement. Surrounded by fire with no way out and running out of air, they were forced to jump out the rear windows to the yard five stories below. We have utilized this as a case study when completing the classroom portion of our bailout training to all our personnel since issuing these kits over a year ago.
Joey and the other survivors initiated a campaign for the issuance of personal life safety ropes for all members of FDNY and, as result of this fire, FDNY did re-issue ropes to all its members. Joey and the other survivors regularly spoke out around the country about firefighter safety. Despite his injuries, Joey was also a most popular instructor giving classes across the country.
Joey continued to live in great pain every day of his life from all his injuries and passed away November 22, 2011, as a result of the injuries that he suffered on Black Sunday. We use this tragic story of the untimely deaths of these brave members of FDNY and how the ability to “bailout,” having the personal escape kits is something we can’t take for granted. For had those personnel had those kits that day, the events likely would have been different.
I was honored to have spoken with Lt. DiBernardo’s father, FDNY Chief Joe DiBernardo (Ret.), on the anniversary of Joey’s passing. He had called asking about which coins I was requesting to purchase. We were actually performing the bailout training when he called me. I thought it fitting.
He and other family members formed the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. They continue the memory of Lt. DiBernardo by providing financial grants to departments who may otherwise not be able to equip their personnel with these life-saving kits. It’s through Joeys memory that they strive to help others have the ability to bailout and have the training to do it safely. I can think of no better way to memorialize someone like Lt. DiBernardo. They operate on donations and purchasing of items such as the challenge coins and t shirts.
For more information go to www.joeydfoundation.org.