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This Week’s Buzz: Rethinking Our Approach to Emergency Response

New York, NY – From NYC to Puerto Rico, the challenges of first responders tasked with helping to clean up after the

Brenda Berkman on Blue Collar Buzz.

latest climate change-related disaster, looms large on the latest episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz. 

In addition to talking about the ongoing need to recruit more women into the FDNY,  firefighting pioneer Brenda Berkman talked about the significance of gender, and how it relates to increasingly more frequent emergencies like the  floods and wildfires the U.S. is now experiencing.

“Once we have more women in the [FDNY], the organization will have to be much more responsive to women’s needs — and I’m not just talking about women firefighters and things that are particular to women in the department — but, also, women that we serve in the community,” Berkman tells Blue Collar Buzz. “Over and over again, I’m reading how gender has become a real disability in emergency response.”

Indeed, Berkman says that whether it’s hurricanes or earthquakes or wildfires — “women and their families, as groups, are really disadvantaged by the lack of attention by emergency services to their needs during, and after these terrible events.”

Teamsters Local 445 driver Daniel Maldonado recently returned from a volunteer mission to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico — and what he experienced there shocked him.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he tells Blue Collar Buzz. “Some of the stuff we ran across you don’t see in everyday life. Things are bad. You have roofs torn off homes… and getting supplies to people has been a problem. Water is very crucial. They say  25- to 30-percent of the island doesn’t have water. But I think the stats are definitely inaccurate. I would say it’s 40- to 50-percent don’t have water.”

For some survivors on the island, Maldonado and his fellow union tradespeople turned emergency-responders were the first rescuers they had encountered in weeks.

“To not see somebody for two or three weeks — receive any help with water, to me, that speaks volumes,” the Teamster trucker says.

“What we don’t see [so much] is how we are responding to these catastrophes that is responsible — in a way that actually

Maritza Silva-Farrell on Blue Collar Buzz.

creates an equitable society,” ALIGN Executive Director Maritza Silva-Farrell tells Blue Collar Buzz. “When Hurricane Sandy hit, we actually saw first-hand —   the people that have been disenfranchised from the system are the ones affected the most.”

In addition to leaving fossil fuels in the ground, transitioning to a green economy and doing all the things necessary to survive manmade climate change — ALIGN’s executive director says that better policies must now be crafted and enacted to improve our response to those emergencies that are most assuredly already on the way.

“The thing that I feel is important is, how do we act and respond in a way that can actually improve the conditions of those communities?,” Silva Farrell says.

Listen to the latest full episode here.

LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night from 9 to 10 p.m. on AM970 The Answer. Listen online at, or check out the library of past episodes at

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