Omaha Mayor Calls Firefighters Soda Can Alerts “Unnecessary”

OMAHA, NE — Mayor Jean Stothert said she first saw the “soda can” alert when she watched our KETV report.

Some firefighters place pop cans on top of a printer that activates when emergency calls come in–causing the pop cans to fall to the floor making a loud noise.

“When I saw the cell phone video, I was very disappointed firefighters want to give the idea to the public their safety is at risk,” Mayor Stothert said. “Just showing one mobile video is inappropriate because it didn’t tell the whole story.”

Mayor Stothert said it’s “unnecessary” for firefighters to use the pop cans because there are procedures when the fire station alert system goes down.

Those procedures include state of the art portable radios every firefighter carry 24 hours a day.

With the main fire station alerting system down at stations 23 and 52, firefighters use the pop cans as a back up to the portable, as well as fixed radios.

Fire Chief Dan Olsen said his firefighters are trying to make a point.

“The pop cans is a dramatization of the situation. It’s their choice to have them fall off printer to act as another layer for their dispatch process until they get their brand new state of the art alerting system So be it,” Olsen said.

In our original report, Olsen said he was not aware of the pop can alert. Tuesday he clarified his statement to say he did know about pop cans being used at station 23 months ago. He denied knowing about station 52 resorting to the same back up tactic.

“I was not aware of using those pop cans at station 52,” Olsen said.

Mayor Stothert said firefighters should be using the portable radios, not the pop cans.

” They have several multiple back up procedures they should be using. The portable radios have the same tones and calls from alerting so they already have that in place,” Stothert said.

Chief Olsen said firefighters have not missed one call or delayed calls because of the broken fire alerting system.

“Quite frankly it’s offensive they’re implying to the citizens they’re unsafe because of this current situation with this outdated fire station system,” Olsen said.

Fire Union President Steve LeClair said the portable radios don’t weed out the calls to each station. Firefighters have to listen to every fire call coming from every corner of the city.

LeClair said it’s overwhelming and unhealthy for firefighters to stay up to listen to the calls.

“I feel bad for those firefighters in those stations that are subjected to a different set of working conditions than the rest of the city,” LeClair said.

Olsen calls the portable radios a temporary nuisance until the upgraded system goes on-line.

Voters approved a $2.4 million bond issue in November 2016. The city council approved a contract with Racom Corporation in December 2017to provide the fire station alerting system. It could be in place by the end of the summer.


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