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September 26, 2002
By Chief Billy Goldfeder

Here is another followup regarding the FDNY radio situation. The below article is a pretty good analysis from Long Island Newsday. One of my readers (and friend!) contacted me the other day and asked why am I on a "radio rampage....again?" I like that term..."Radio Rampage"...naaaah, I don't think it's a rampage...just concerns: provable, measurable, documented & valid ones that are directly related to FF's (NY and beyond...) abilities to do the job safely.

To me, this is simple stuff. As I have said before...I will quit writing and forwarding this stuff when it is either fixed or we are wrong. Of course, maybe if the radio system worked better there would not have been such a horrible loss of life on 9-11-01 following the attacks and subsequent collapse of the buildings...does that then justify a rampage? Look at the NYPD radio system..it works pretty well. Is that "rampagable" ? (When you write your own stuff...you get to INVENT your own words!)

Over the years, it's become real clear to me how stuff in most local governments work. Ya see, things tend to get fixed and/or taken care of when you are in the right "pecking order". Probably a good example would be this: If a Mayor, City Manager, Commissioner, Board or Council Member or some other bureaucratic big shot's equipment-that they are dependent on didn't work right...it would be fixed...right? Sure! Just look around you. You see it everyday. Their offices gets cleaned, their staff cars get serviced, the computers are the newest etc etc....they are the priority. Nothing new...kinda the way it is, right!?

On the other hand, when equipment failures don't directly effect the big shots abilities to happily function, succeed, suck up, make money or get re-elected....it tends to end up on the back burner. BUT...let it effect them directly, and just like magic-the stuff gets handled. Why-cause it effected THEM. DAMN! Sorry...there I go on a "radio rampage" again. I'll tellya what--I'll take a breather...get some quick therapy...and let the below reporter cover for me tonight. And after you read that...think about how any of this applies to YOUR fire department. How would this be handled in your community? And while we are discussing this kind of stuff...how is YOUR radio system? Whats the future plans for your system?...uh oh!!...don't tell me that "they" are looking into digital radio systems for YOUR firefighters as well. Has ANYONE done ANY homework? Course, it may not matter-it ALL depends on where YOU fit in...in the PECKING ORDER!

ANALYSIS: Static For Council On Fire Radios
By William Murphy-STAFF WRITER
Newsday (New York, NY)...09/24/2002

If the deaths of 343 firefighters do not get the City Council's attention, what will?

Critics say the question remains unanswered after the council took a cautious stance when unions representing those firefighters demanded a more thorough investigation of the response to the World Trade Center attack. The chairwoman of the council's Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, Yvette Clark (D-Brooklyn), said she didn't know what more there was to learn about what happened that day, and whether faulty radios or other problems contributed to the loss of life. "I'd like to know ultimately what it is that we'd like to get from the hearing," she said. Given the chance to elaborate, a spokesman for Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) took a pass and let Clark's statement stand as the official reaction of the city's legislative body.

That did not sit well with Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association."If they don't have the gumption to put their names on a subpoena, then their names aren't worth the stationery they're printed on," Cassidy said. The council is poised to play a pivotal role, if it wants, in the review of the Sept. 11 response and probing the radios' operation and in any of the dozens of questions that have arisen. The two unions representing the dead firefighters are not satisfied - not with the Fire Department's answers to date and not with the council's role as a check on the executive branch. "It's time to tear down the red wall of silence at the FDNY," Capt. Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said last week. At the heart of the unions' anger is the purchase of new portable radios more than two years ago under questionable circumstances. The radios were supposed to modernize and even revolutionize communications, using digital technology instead of the standard analog technology now in use.

But the radios were a problem almost immediately. They were put into service without field testing, had a lag between the time a transmit button was depressed and a message could be sent, and were no better than the old radios in high-rise buildings, where concrete and metal interfered with transmissions. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told the council last week that much of the problem with the radios was with the power boosters and other parts of the "infrastructure" rather than the radios themselves.

ANALYSIS-Communication Breakdown
The FDNY has had problems with both old and new models of radios.

March 14, 2001
Motorola XTS 3500 digital radios go into use. A report the same day from a Brooklyn fire said sound distortions were so great that some messages could not be understood.

March 19, 2001
Firefighters at a Queens blaze could not hear a May Day call on the new radios.

March 21, 2001
FDNY recalls new radios and puts old Motorola Sabre III models back in service.

Spring 2001 Debate over new radios becomes political, with Mayor Rudolph Giulilani blaming FDNY for lack of training, and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen admitting the department violated its own policy by failing to consult with unions before buying the radios.

Sept. 12, 2001 
First of many reports that the radio system, using the old hand-held Sabre radios, did not work properly at the World Trade Center.

March 27, 2002
FDNY begins retesting the new radios at training facility on Randalls Island, but stops May 1 after union complains of lost and garbled transmissions.

Aug. 6, 2002
Fire union officials report tests of the new radios over a nine-day period in high-rise buildings revealed more transmission difficulties.

Aug. 19, 2001 
A consultant, McKinsey & Co., releases a report saying that old radios at the trade center could not work reliably without a power booster system and the existing booster did not function.

Sept. 17, 2002 Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says communications problems on Sept. 11 were not due to the radios, but the lack of antennas, signal boosters and other "infrastructure.
"DIFFICULTIES WITH THE MOTOROLA XTS 3500-Lost or garbled transmissions...Cuts off first few words of a transmission....May Day button improperly located for firefighter use.