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EXCLUSIVE: An Up-Close Look At How The NYPD Trains For A Tram Rescue

ESU Teams Repeatedly Prepare For Sky-High Rescues At Roosevelt Island Tram
NYPD tram rescue drill (credit: CBS 2)

NYPD tram rescue drill (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For police it’s not just about fighting crime, it’s about saving lives when technology fails.

On Tuesday, CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey went along for the ride as officers trained for sky-high rescues at the Roosevelt Island tram.

With straps and harnesses ready to go, members of an NYPD Emergency Service Unit took a short ride to their drill destination — 300 feet above Roosevelt Island.

“The last thing we want them to be is unaware of their surrounding when they have a real rescue to go to,” ESU Lt. Franco Barberio said.

Fifteen officers took turns on top of the tram, inside it and on one of the towers simulating certain saves.

“So that when they show up on the scene, it’s either that scenario or very close that the officers can perform at a moment’s notice without even thinking,” Lt. Barberio said.

The tram training was something those heading to Roosevelt Island were checking out, along with those on the ground.

“You’ve got to continue practicing for a rescue because you never know when it’s going to happen,” tourist Bob Franklin said.

The last time a passenger rescue happened was in 2005, when the people mover lost power and its backup system also wouldn’t work.

Officers practiced for that scenario by lowering someone down to the ground, and they added a new practice session after rescuing an iron worker from a tram tower two weeks ago.

“He went into a state of shock rather rapidly and lowering him down to the ground was not feasible, so we put him into the cabin as quickly as we could,” Lt. Tim Krumm said.

So on Wednesday, they practiced lowering a gurney from a tower into the tram car.

“If we can lower him 20 feet into the car, and have an EMS worker on him within minutes, as opposed to getting him down 300 feet of rope, we’re always better off that day,” Barberio said.

And given the frequency of the training sessions every other week passengers are better off, too.

There are 400 officers in the ESU, and each gets a turn with tram training before the cycle repeats.

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