NY firefighters' anger at 'dated radios'
Union leaders holding news conference in Manhattan
Union leaders blamed former mayor Giuliani

Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK

The leaders of the unions representing firefighters in New York have demanded immediate action to replace the radio system which they blame for the deaths of more than 100 of their colleagues on 11 September.

One union leader said that the former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, was ultimately responsible for failing to upgrade the system alongside the then fire department commissioner.

The joint press conference of all the unions representing firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical personnel, called for the sacking of the fire department team who have been working towards delivering a better radio network for use on the ground.

Hardly any firefighters heard the radio command from one staff chief, ordering everyone down almost 30 minutes before the first tower fell. It's estimated that 120 officers who later died on upper floors, could have got out.

Failed to deliver

The analogue radios which are still being used routinely today allow only one person at once to give commands on the network - they are the same model which was criticised for being ineffective when the earlier 1993 attack on the World Trade Center took place.

Two years ago, 3,800 new radios were purchased at a cost of $3,000 each, from the telecoms company, Motorola. But lengthy testing in the field has so far failed to deliver a system which officers say makes a significant difference.

Union leader Peter Gorman
Gorman: 'Giuliani fooled the public'
"If the end result is that they fail, scrap them - and we need a crash programme to get new vendors (telecoms companies) in here, without worrying about the almighty buck," the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association (UFOA), Peter Gorman, told the packed press conference in Manhattan.

He stressed that Motorola itself was not responsible for failures so far, and admitted that many of the problems with hearing radio signals in tall buildings were due to infrastructure, and a lack of signal boosters.

Giuliani 'fooled the public'

But his strongest criticism was for the former mayor. Asked if he had been a hero on the day, Mr Gorman replied:

"He fooled the public. The emergency operations system was not working... Giuliani spent $25m, and didn't get a plan. The command centre at 7 World Trade Center... police intelligence people urged him not to put it there - he put it there anyway, and it collapsed on 9/11 [11 September]."

Patrick Bahnhen, president of the emergency workers' and paramedics' union, joined the criticism:

World Trade Center collapsing
Hundreds of firemen were inside the World Trade Center when it collapsed
"I believe that responsibility rises to the top, and I believe that the former mayor at the very least had the opportunity to remove those people responsible.

"Lives are in the balance. It's clear that New York City is still a target, we shouldn't wait for the next tragedy and then use that as a catalyst," he said.

A report on the emergency services' performance during 11 September - from the consultancy firm McKinsey - is due to be published soon. But drafts which have been seen by journalists, indicate that serious mistakes were made, including chronic problems with the radio network.



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