Mayor Gray expresses concern over emergency readiness in D.C.

One sentence in a letter from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is igniting a debate over whether D.C. is prepared for a major disaster, like a terror attack.

But is it a question of preparedness or another round in the ongoing political battle over firefighter schedules?

In his letter to two council members, Mayor Gray expressed concern over the distance many of the department's firefighters live from the district.

"...Should a serious emergency situation impact the District of Columbia, as it did just last week in Boston, it would be almost impossible for many off-duty FEMS workers, who would be desperately needed, to respond in a timely manner to meet the needs of out residents...," Gray wrote.

Gray is also pushing to switch from 24-hour shifts, which the fire union likes, to 12-hour shifts. Ed Smith, D.C. Fire Fighters Association Local 36 president, has accused the mayor of playing politics, adding the city could currently handle a disaster.

However, according to fire department data, 24 percent of the district's firefighters like in the city, 48 percent live within 30 miles and 28 percent live further away.

In a council hearing Monday, Deputy Mayor Pail Quander said 12-hour shifts would make it necessary that firefighters live closer. The close proximity would also make them available for a variety of events.

But Smith says even if the firefighters came in, the city doesn't have the extra equipment.

As for police, Police Chief Cathy Lanier insists D.C. would have no problem dealing with an attack like the one that occurred in Boston. Lanier added the district is the most prepared city in the nation for such a situation.

Read Mayor Gray's letter in its entirety below:

Mayor Gray on FEMS schedules