NY firefighters' anger at
Union leaders blamed former
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.
"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.
Gorman: 'Giuliani fooled the
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
"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
Patrick Bahnhen, president of the emergency
workers' and paramedics' union, joined the
"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
Hundreds of firemen were inside
the World Trade Center when it
"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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