New York Fire Department Recommends Emergency Changes

Filed at 6:03 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Police and fire officials pledged tighter command, improved communication and better cooperation in future large-scale emergencies while releasing reports Monday that examine the response to the World Trade Center attack.

The reports, prepared by high-ranking department officials and management consultant McKinsey & Co., found the rescue effort -- while heroic and largely successful -- was hurt by poor organization, faulty radio equipment and the departments' failure to work together.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, whose departments have had historically tense relations, promised to work together more closely as they improved their individual departments' operations.

``This was not an exercise in Monday-morning quarterbacking,'' Kelly said.

The Fire Department of New York, which lost 343 firefighters in the attack, and the New York Police Department, which lost 23 officers, have been widely lauded for their bravery Sept. 11. An estimated 25,000 people were evacuated from the twin towers that day in what Bloomberg called ``the most successful urban emergency evacuation in modern history.''

``There is no doubt in my mind that we are doing today what the heroes of 9-11 would have wanted us to do,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. ``It is in that spirit that we present these reports.''

But both departments had some problems with staffing -- caused, ironically, by individual firefighters' and officers' zeal to save lives, the report said.

Kelly said too many officers responded to the scene; the fire department report said some units disobeyed orders to report to staging points around the trade center area, instead heading into the towers.

Once inside, serious radio problems left many commanders and firefighters unable to communicate with each other, the report found. To make matters worse, the fire department's radios were incompatible with the police radio system.

Bloomberg promised to make sure the fire department's radios work properly in the future, regardless of cost. Police are also considering opening their citywide system of radio signal-boosting repeaters to the FDNY to help solve the communication problems.

But beyond their incompatible equipment, police and firefighters did not adequately cooperate on Sept. 11, according to the fire department report, which says there were no senior police chiefs at the Fire Department's command post.

The report also recommends the department bolster its single hazardous materials unit to better respond to potential chemical, biological or radiological attack.

Among those who died Sept. 11 were some of the fire department's senior commanders, including Chief of Department Peter Ganci. In the future, the report said, senior officers should oversee large-scale emergencies from the department's operations center instead of the disaster scene.


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