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NYFD Communications Systems Failed Before WTC Collapse

In yesterday's New York Times, Jim Dwyer wrote about the huge communications systems problems that beset the New York Fire Department during the World Trade Center disaster. According to the article: "The commanders decided early on that roaring fires on the high floors of the towers could not be subdued. Many worried aloud that the buildings were in danger of at least partial failure. Confusion extended, for some, to which tower was which. Although they feared that the buildings were doomed, they could not bring their troops back in time."

This article is difficult to read, if only because it documents what most people who have followed the story carefully already suspected: that communications among the rescue workers and information about other events occurring nearby was almost totally unavailable. Many people who have worked in the neighborhood of the World Trade Center in the past could not remember which tower was number 1 and which was number 2. It is not surprising that this was a major issue in a situation where both towers were severely damaged, and an evacuation had to take place.

It is hard to imagine how any radio communication system could have stayed up and available in the conditions of September 11. We have always suspected that the changes to U.S. mobile phone base stations to provide emergency personnel with priority access would not have been enough to ensure that police, fire, and rescue workers would have been able to communicate with each other on that day.

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