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NYFD Radio Problems at WTC/New York Times

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  • worksntv@aol.com
    December 19, 2001 THE FIREFIGHTERS Radio Used on Sept. 11 Is Questioned By KEVIN FLYNN Fire Department officials are investigating whether some firefighters
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 20, 2001
      December 19, 2001


      Radio Used on Sept. 11 Is Questioned


      Fire Department officials are investigating whether some firefighters engaged
      in rescue efforts at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 did not hear an order
      to evacuate the buildings because the handheld radios they were using did not
      function properly, officials said yesterday.
      Some firefighters have told officials that they never heard an evacuation
      order given by Chief Joseph Callan after the second plane hit that morning.
      As a result, they said, they did not know that Chief Callan had broadcast a
      message over the radios in which he ordered the firefighters to "come down to
      the lobby."
      A spokesman for the department, Francis X. Gribbon, said investigators had
      not determined whether the reported problem resulted from a breakdown in
      reception or transmission or whether some other factor may have prevented
      some firefighters from hearing the command.
      "Some people heard it and some people didn't," he said. "We're doing an
      investigation and when we get everyone's testimony we hope to have a
      comprehensive idea of just what happened."
      The department has already interviewed more than 300 people to get a better
      sense of how the fire companies responded on the day of the attack and what
      problems they encountered. Among those interviewed have been 135 fire
      officers or firefighters. Mr. Gribbon said it was unclear how many of those
      interviewed had indicated that they had a problem hearing the order.
      Officials have estimated that several hundred firefighters had rushed into
      each of the towers and worked there successfully to evacuate some 25,000
      people before the towers fell. A total of 343 firefighters lost their lives
      in the attack. Officials have cautioned that even those who heard Chief
      Callan's command might have ignored it because they were simultaneously
      hearing urgent calls for help from fellow firefighters who were trapped and
      needed assistance.
      The hand-held radios used by the department have been a point of contention
      within the agency for much of the past year. Commissioner Thomas Von Essen
      had moved to replace the current analog radios with a new digital model, but
      the newer versions were pulled from service several months ago after
      firefighters reported having had difficulty hearing messages at fires. In one
      incident, one trapped firefighter's Mayday call was not heard by some of his
      colleagues at a Queens fire. The new radios are still being re-evaluated.
      During the debate several months ago, many firefighters expressed a
      preference for the older radio, with which they were more familiar. But
      officials have long said that the analog radio had problems operating in
      high-rise buildings, where their signals difficulty penetrating many floors
      of steel and concrete.
      On the day of the attack, radio communications were further complicated by
      the fact that a device at the twin towers, known as a repeater, which helps
      to boost the signal of the radios, appears to have been damaged by the impact
      of the planes and was not working, officials said.
      An official of the union that represents fire supervisors said that it did
      not appear that the reception problem had been widespread. "I have not heard
      from any of my officers about any communication problem on that day," said
      Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "But if
      they had had the digital radios, they would have more problems because the
      repeater system there was operating on an analog mode."
      Thomas Manley, the sergeant-at- arms for the Uniformed Firefighters
      Association, said that the department had long had a problem with reception
      in high-rise buildings.


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