8 March, 1989
Firefighters seek better,insurance
By DEBORAH KOVACH
PRINCETON BOROUGH — Fire-fighters in the 140-member volunteer fire company here say they are inadequately covered by insurance and are pressing the borough council to do something about it.
“There are a lot of very concerned firemen out there,” said borough councilman and Fire Chief Mark Freda. ” A lot of people say, ‘You better get this resolved. Why should I go into a burning building if something is going to happen to me?” A problem like that could wipe out your fire company pretty fast.”
Freda said most members of the volunteer department have other full-time jobs that provide adequate benefits. But others —such as young firefighters, retired members and those who have only minimal coverage through their businesses — may not be adequately covered.
Firefighters came before the council last week to urge borough officials to look into the problem. Freda said yesterday he would like to resolve the issue in about a month.
HE SAID concerns about the policy began about three years ago, when a Princeton firefighter suffered a severe heart attack after battling a fire and explosion caused by a gas leak near the Delaware & Raritan Canal at the Canal Pointe housing development.
The firefighter, Peter Nini, was completely disabled as a result of a series heart attacks at the time but has yet to receive any worker’s compensation funds because he must prove in court that the attacks were triggered by firefighting.
The borough’s policy at the time did not provide him with adequate coverage, and other firefighters are concerned that even a new policy, updated two years ago, is not enough.
“What happened to Peter Nini is uncalled for,” Freda said.
Borough administrator Mark Gordon said yesterday that the borough may find a way to improve firefighters’ insurance coverage, particularly by increasing the weekly amount of money a disabled fireman would receive from the current $250 per week for a maximum of five years.
“I’M LOOKING into improving the policy and into other types of policies,” Gordon said yesterday. “I expect to continue to explore this with the fire company.”
Gordon said he will meet with fire officials to decide what kind of increased coverage the firefighters may need.
The borough policy, jointly funded by the borough and township but administered by the borough, includes a $25,000 life insurance or dismemberment payment; a $5,000 payment in the event of lingereing disability 180 days after an accident; and a weekly indemnity of $250 for five years, Gordon said.
Up to $5,000 in medical expenses is also available within one year of an accident, but only after worker’s compensation funds have been exhausted.