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From: http://www.nydailynews.com
Sunday March 25 07:20 AM EST

FDNY in a Radio Daze


The firefighters union accused department brass yesterday of trying to dupe employees and the public by saying the new radio system yanked last week after reports of malfunctions was used by two other major cities.

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The Uniformed Firefighters Association representing the city's 8,100 rank-and-file firefighters and fire marshals demanded that Mayor Giuliani and the City Council investigate who authorized the digital radios as well as the claim they had been field-tested in Boston and Chicago.

"I think someone screwed up and someone has to be held accountable," union President Kevin Gallagher said at a hastily called news conference.

Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, told the Daily News yesterday, "We don't use digital, and we have never used digital."

The Chicago Fire Department declined to comment to The News. But union officials and WNBC-TV said Chicago representatives told them they did not use digital radios, either.

A senior adviser to Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen predicted heads would roll in the wake of the radio fiasco.

"Von Essen is incensed over the amount of misinformation that was given to him by certain of his staff, and there are going to be personnel changes," the adviser said.

So far, the city has shelled out $7 million for 2,700 new two-way digital radios.

The city switched to the new radios March 13. But within days, firefighters were reporting serious communication problems. On several occasions, calls that couldn't be picked up between firefighters working at the same fire somehow got transmitted to radios in other boroughs, the union said.

"It just caused mass confusion," said Rudy San Filippo, the union's Manhattan trustee.

On Monday, a Queens firefighter whose oxygen supply ran out in a smoke-filled basement made seven Mayday calls on his new digital radio that union officials said couldn't be heard by his colleagues on the scene.

The next day, Von Essen ordered the new radios taken out of service and the old analog radios put back in.

Gallagher chastised the Fire Department brass for what he said were attempts to downplay the Queens incident.

"How dare the department question the use of a Mayday?" he asked.

Von Essen's adviser said yesterday that the firefighter would not have had a radio at all before the digital switchover and that he might not have been used to having one.


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