Chicago Has Spent $23 Million On A Fire Communications System That Doesn’t Work

CHICAGO, IL &#8211 After five years and $23 million, the Chicago Fire Department’s digital communications system still isn’t online. The failure of the new system is back in the news following report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that criticized the department’s lack of radios during a December fire that killed two firefighters.

Chicago is the largest city in the country that doesn’t equip every firefighter with a radio, and its current analog system is five decades old. Motorola was awarded a no-bid contract in 2006 to install a digital system, which has been fraught with problems.

Because Chicago firefighters and paramedics use analog radios that are incompatible they must carry two radios if they want to speak to each other. If police officers need to talk to firefighters, a dispatcher at the city’s 911 center has to connect them &#8211 a process the digital radios are supposed to eliminate.

A spokesman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications said the new system should come online in 2012.

From The Chicago Tribune.