New York, NY, September 10, 2011 --(PR.com
)-- With the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy approaching, members of Firefighter Families United (FFU) are calling for accountability by officials responsible for the failure of emergency radios inside the World Trade Center. Family members of firefighters killed that day say today’s police and firefighters deserve working radios, and will only get them after unanswered questions from the attack nearly a decade ago are finally resolved.
“After ten years, the richest country in the world, and you don’t have radios for first responders, you are asking these men to play Russian roulette,” said Russell Mercer, a member of FFU whose stepson Scott Kopytko was among the firefighters killed that day.
Compounding the group’s frustration is that emergency radio failures have continued to endanger lives in the years since the World Trade Center attack, despite widespread acknowledgment of problems. That concern was reinforced by the ten-year anniversary 9/11 report card issued last week by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which criticized public officials for inactivity on the emergency radio problem. Mr. Mercer agrees that officials need to be held accountable.
“When you ask public officials why, their answer is always ‘we’re working on it,’” he says. “After ten years, they should hold their heads in shame.”
Those concerns are confirmed by Glenn Corbett, Fire and Science Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, who is also a fire captain in Waldwick, New Jersey. He says the problems were known well before the 2001 attack.
“In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing we had communications issues,” Professor Corbett said. “Problems were identified, but the same thing happened in 2001 because we had the same radios. The rank and file did not have radios that would have allowed them to communicate with their own company, as well as commanders at the scene.”
Family members point to what happened the morning of September 11, 2001. This is the order of events as reported in the New York Times, on July 7, 2002: Just moments after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., a police helicopter radioed: “I don’t think this has too much longer to go. I would evacuate all people within the area of that second building.” But fire chiefs did not hear that warning, because interoperability problems first identified in the 1993 World Trade Center attack remained. Firefighters had no access to vital information. 29 minutes later, at 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapsed, taking the lives of 121 firefighters.
Like many New York City contractors, Motorola has a lot riding on the decisions made by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). But, the Illinois-based public safety radio manufacturer has an advantage: its former salesman is now employed by the troubled Department, and responsible for procuring FDNY’s radios.
“If the Department of Justice were to take a critical look at the issues surrounding these radios, they would find serious wrongdoing,” says Jerome Hauer, former Commissioner of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management.
Firefighter Families United (firefighterfamiliesunited.org) is working to gather new information on these issues. Those who have lost loved ones have opened a confidential hotline and are asking those who may have information about these and other issues surrounding public safety radio failures to call 1-866-599-FDNY.
“This is not a Republican problem, this is not a Democrats problem, it’s an American problem,” Mr. Mercer said. “America needs to get together and solve these problems to protect today’s firefighters.”