Veteran firefighter says that radios failed on 9/11, still waiting for vital upgrade

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(09/15/06) YONKERS - One FDNY firefighter is speaking out about how communications failures on 9/11 cost people their lives and how politics and money are getting in the way of improving the system.

After 21 years serving the FDNY, Lieutenant Jim McCaffrey, of Yonkers, says the scars of 9/11's radio failures still haunt the department. McCaffrey says that several of the 343 firefighters who died in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks could have lived had radio communication been better. His brother-in-law, Battalion 7 Chief Orio Palmer, continued to climb to the 78th floor of the south tower while, McCaffrey says, Palmer?s radio did not allow him to hear messages from other rescue squads. After a car repeater was turned on, transmissions did improve that day, but Palmer was killed when the tower fell.

Five years later, though, McCaffrey says little more has been done and he is campaigning for a major communications system upgrade for the entire department, and for the NYPD as well. He claims money and politics prevented an upgrade following the 1993 WTC attack, and the same situation is repeating itself today.

FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says he has not heard any complaints from the field about failing communications systems. Scoppetta added that, because of New York City's layout, no radio system could operate at 100 percent efficiency, but the current one works very well.


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