A soon-to-be-released consultant report peels the scab from the Fire Department of New York’s wounds to reveal its problems with radio communications, internal discipline and interdepartmental relations with police.
A story published in yesterday’s New York Times suggests that deficient radio communications, problems with discipline from the executive level to the firefighter and poor coordination with the New York Police Department’s efforts adversely affected FDNY’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York City’s World Trade Center.
The Times obtained substantial portions of a draft report prepared by McKinsey & Company, a consultant hired to analyze the fire department’s response. Included within the fire department is the city’s emergency medical service. Another consultant is analyzing the police department’s response.
The story characterizes the fire department’s response as “brave and aggressive,” yet hampered by several problems that have long been known but never resolved.
The story reports that the consultant found that radio communications with firefighters and their commanders failed at critical times, even though radio communications problems with New York’s high-rise buildings had been evident for a long time.
When the final report is submitted, perhaps within a week, McKinsey also is expected to point out lapses in discipline that caused department executives and front-line firefighters alike to rush to the scene without notifying commanders at staging areas.
The report’s third main point is expected to call attention to a “virtual absence” of coordination the police department. The Times reporters previously found—and the draft report apparently agrees—that the police department used its helicopters to observe the trade center buildings’ deteriorating structural integrity and to follow the fire’s progress. But that information was not shared with fire department commanders.
The draft copy of McKinsey’s report, as described by the Times, recounts the fire department’s withdrawal of its new digital radios from service last year and its redeployment of its older analog radios following an incident when the newer radios didn’t work as the fire department management wanted. The draft recommends deployment of the digital radios within four months.
The story in the Times cites the draft as recommending that fire companies be given portable radio boosters to use at high-rise fires. McKinsey is reported as recommending changes in the city’s building code such that owners of high-rise buildings would have to install equipment to improve radio coverage within.