Navy firefighters: Failure of NDW radio system impacted saving lives following Navy Yard shooting rampage.

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Previous coverage of Navy Yard shootings here, & here

Hank Silverberg, WTOP Radio:

Faulty radios may have slowed the treatment of victims at the  Navy Yard shooting.

The Navy’s fire department, civilians who protect naval facilities across  the Washington region, were the first to arrive at the Navy Yard to treat the  wounded Monday morning after Aaron Alexis opened fire inside Building 197.

But Greg Russell, president of Local F121 of the International Association  of Firefighters, says firefighters could not communicate with each other because  their digital radios did not work.

He says they actually had to send runners between the command center inside  a building and the area where their equipment was staged.

“I believe that the radio problems is a contributing factor to the chaos  and delay of prompt medical care to the victims,” says Russell.

He says he can’t say for sure if the faulty radios led to the loss of a  life. But it was not the first time the radios have malfunctioned.

“We have been raising this issue for the greater portion of five years. This  is not new to the Naval District of Washington,” he says. 

The Navy firefighters eventually borrowed radios from the D.C. fire  department to get the job done.

The Navy fire department has 250 firefighters in the Washington District  spread among 13 fire houses. They protect all naval facilities including the Navy  Yard, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, the Naval Academy in Annapolis and the  Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

Russell says the radios’ Mayday system, which should alert firefighters when  one of their own is in trouble, also doesn’t work. And he says the radios eat up  batteries at an alarming rate. 

The radios are actually borrowed from the Army, which uses them at several  facilities including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. 

In response to an inquiry from WTOP about the faulty radios, the Navy issued  the following written statement:

“At this time the Naval District Washington focus remains on healing as a  Navy family and transitioning to normal operations at the Washington Navy Yard.  The Secretary of the Navy has ordered a review of physical security and we will  support it fully. Our biggest concern is our Navy Family.”

On Thursday, the union representing civilian police officers at the Navy Yard complained about being under-staffed because of budget cuts, which  slowed their agency’s response to the shootings.

Ken Molestina, WUSA9.com:

We’ve got more details after explosive accusations suggest lives could have been spared at the Navy Yard shooting if the first rescuers inside were able to communicate.

We are specifically referring to the U.S. Naval District of Washington Fire and EMS Department and reports that their emergency radios failed them during the Navy Yard shooting incident.

“I would say there is a great likelihood that more lives could have been saved ,” said Gregory Russell with the National Capital Federal Firefighters. He is the president of the National Capital Federal Firefighters Union. He is also a fire inspector with the U.S. Naval District of Washington Fire, and EMS Department. That’s the same department responsible for fire and EMS services at the Navy Yard.

“They were there almost instantly after the call was put out.”

And just as fast he says, the troubles in communication among Navy firefighters began. He says the radio’s provided to them by the navy failed.

“Immediately upon their arrival they were experiencing radio problems. they were not receiveing and not able to transmit messages to other emergency responders”

He tells us a batallion chief who was the first inside building 197 was trying to report details from inside the shooting scene and set up triage, but couldn’t.

“This required the use of a runner. We had to assign a fire captain as a chiefs aide…he would have to go all the way outside of the building to transmit.”

The president of this union says he is so fed up with the problem that he is drafting a letter calling for the resignation of all those who had anything to do with the purchase and deployment of these radios.

We asked the union president if there were documents reporting the radio failures. He was able to provide reports from 2010,  2012,  and one report from january 2013.

“These poorly functioning radios contributed to the chaos,” he said.

WUSA9  reached out to the Regional Fire Chief C.P. Miedzinski by phone. He refused to comment on the matter saying they would e-mail statement to us, but we never received that.

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