On September 11th, 2001, this was heard from a police helicopter hovering over the World Trade Center:
''About 15 floors down from the top, it looks like it's glowing red,'' the pilot of one helicopter, Aviation 14, radioed at 10:07 a.m. ''It's inevitable.''
Orders were given to evacuate. There was just one hitch. One fatal hitch:
Yet most firefighters never heard those warnings, or earlier orders to get out. Their radio system failed frequently that morning. Even if the radio network had been reliable, it was not linked to the police system. And the police and fire commanders guiding the rescue efforts did not talk to one another during the crisis.
At least 121 firefighters died as a result.
That was over a decade ago. Heartbreaking. Infuriating. Fixable.
Radios for federal firefighters and police officers failed during Monday’s mass shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard, according to union representatives for first responders.
Union officials said police and firefighters resorted to using their cellphones and radios from D.C.’s emergency responders to communicate with each other during the attack. [...]
After the first shootout with the gunman, one officer found his radio’s battery was dead, while another officer could not receive a signal from his radio and was unable to call for help. That forced them to use an officer’s cellphone to call others outside the building, according to Meely. [...]
[Anthony Meely, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Naval District Washington (NDW) Labor Committee], who was on the scene at Navy Yard and took part in the search for a potential second shooter, said problems with their radios have been “a known issue” on the base with radio batteries not being able to hold charge and being unable to receive signals inside buildings.
The union representative said he thought it was “sad” that police officers had to use a cellphone to call for help.
Firefighters + police + problems with their radio signals = Disaster-in-waiting. Preventable disaster-in-waiting.
It's 2013. 2001 was twelve years ago. After twelve long years, lives are still at risk from the same type of communication problems that existed on September 11, 2001. This is mind-boggling. And it is also unacceptable.
You'd think fixing something this crucial to the safety of our first responders and those whose lives they try to save would be a priority, wouldn't you?