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from: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Attacks-FDNY-Radios.html

August 5, 2002

Union Demands New FDNY Radios



Filed at 9:55 p.m. ET


NEW YORK (AP) -- A fire officers' union demanded Monday that the fire department speed replacement of the handheld radios that failed during the World Trade Center attack.

Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said the Fire Department of New York's four-month timetable for a final test on the radios was too slow, endangering firefighters and the public.

``We can't wait that long,'' Gorman said. ``We've waited long enough on those radios.''

The Motorola digital radios being tested are the same ones introduced more than a year ago, withdrawn because of problems and replaced by analog radios before Sept. 11.

Gorman said that if the tests don't pan out, the FDNY should scrap the radios and look for alternatives.

The UFOA represents 2,500 captains, lieutenants and battalion chiefs in the 11,500-member department. Representatives of other fire unions also attended the news conference.

The fire department said in a statement that it was conducting a ``thorough and comprehensive testing program'' for firefighter radios, scheduled to end Aug. 24.

``The department is compelled to fully test these radios and make certain that they are safe for use by firefighters,'' the statement said. ``This is being done as quickly as possible with the overriding, paramount concern for firefighter safety.''

The department announced plans in June for a revamped radio communications system designed to cope better with major emergencies.

The system involves upgraded versions of the digital radios that were pulled back after an unsuccessful test run in March 2001. The Motorola digital radios were replaced by models from the less-efficient analog system; the analog radios proved inadequate during the trade center calamity that took 343 firefighters' lives.

Gorman said a consultant's study is expected to show that ``virtually no one heard'' an order to evacuate the north tower 27 minutes before the south tower collapsed.

The 3,800 Motorola radios were part of a $14 million program to improve communications at fire scenes, especially in high-rise buildings.

Motorola company officials said the overloaded communications network was the real problem on Sept. 11.

``If you have 400 or 500 people trying to talk at once, it's a wonder anyone heard the transmissions,'' said John McFadden, a company spokesman.