FDNY Halts Radio Test
More woes for $14M Motorola system
By William Murphy
May 1, 2002
The Fire Department had to pull its new Motorola portable radios out of testing
after several more problems developed in the $14 million system, officials said
The testing began in late March, a year after the radios were taken out of
active service when a firefighter's call for help failed to reach colleagues at
the fire scene.
The department blamed the most recent pullback on unspecified "programming
problems," but the firefighters' union said the "mayday" button did not work
properly and there were lost and garbled conversations during testing at the
Fire Academy on Randalls Island.
"It was a flaw in the radios and Motorola is fixing it," said Thomas Manley,
health and safety coordinator for the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
He said that when a firefighter presses the mayday button, it is supposed to
override all other conversations, but the testing found that a firefighter on a
second radio could override the call of the endangered firefighters with a
The department would only say that that there had been "a software problem ...
and they were taken out of service."
A spokeswoman for Motorola said the radios were taken out of service to
reconfigure them at the request of the department.
"This radio is a computer and it can be configured to do what the customer wants
it to do," company spokeswoman Patricia Sturmon said. "There are going to be
more adjustments as you go forward."
The new radios were not field-tested before being put in service in March 2000.
They were quickly yanked from the field in March 2001 after a firefighter's call
for help in the smoke-filled basement of a Richmond Hill home was heard by
firefighters several blocks away, but not by the firefighters around him.
The new radios were not in service on Sept. 11, but fire officials said that
orders to evacuate could not be heard by some firefighters on the old Motorola
radio system that was in use that day.
There has been speculation that radio power boosters, called repeaters, built
into the trade center were damaged when the planes slammed into the buildings.
Copyright © 2002,