Technical Issues Keep Trenton (NJ) Firefighters on One-Channel, Backup Radio System

Three weeks after their radio system went down, the Trenton Fire Department is still operating on a one-channel system while the new system pledged by the city will not be online until July, reports

A city spokesman said earlier this month that the new radio system would be online in about three weeks.

Firefighters union president Wayne Wolk said Friday that no major changes have been made to the firefighters’ radio system in the three weeks since.

“We didn’t get switched over, it’s the same as before, we’re on one channel with multiple calls. Somebody’s going to get hurt,” Wolk said.

The fire department and city have been working on switching the department to a brand new radio system for months, a $4 million expenditure from the department’s capital budget that was budgeted two years ago.

The system being replaced, while 20 years old, featured multiple channels, allowing firefighters at different fire scenes to communicate within their incidents. When it failed earlier this month, the system defaulted to a one-channel backup system.

City spokesman Michael Walker said technical issues continue to delay the switch over to the new system.

Walker said parts of the new radio system work, noting that new radios are inside the fire engines themselves.

But Wolk and firefighters say the critical safety issue is that firefighters inside a burning building use their hand-held radios to communicate with each other. And if necessary to issue a “mayday” call – meaning they are in need of rescue

With numerous companies on just one channel, firefighters at multiple fires could possibly miss such a critical alert for help, firefighters say.

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