Metro denies claim radio failures have not been fixed

Six weeks after D.C. firefighters had trouble communicating inside a smoke-filled tunnel on Metro's Yellow Line, officials say the problems continue. Recent tests inside Metro's tunnels and stations show the radio system continues to fail.

Just last Friday, the tests on the system revealed ten locations where the radios wouldn't work.

The director of D.C.'s 911 center, which is responsible for testing the radio system, told D.C. Council members Wednesday that weekly tests are revealing continuing problems.

The amplifiers, or repeaters as some might call them, were not picking up the signals.

They are failures that were reported to Metro, and as of Wednesday, had not been repaired.

When firefighters responded to reports of a train trapped in a smoke-filled tunnel last month, they could not use their radios to talk with the incident commanders on the platform inside the station or coordinating the response from the street above.

Instead, they relied on runners, line of sight communication and cell phones.

At the D.C. city council, interim Fire Chief Eugene Jones said the problems were ongoing and he had been told the number of failures had increased from the week before.

Jennifer Greene, the director of the Office of Unified Communications, did not get into specifics, but later told reporters four of the ten failures from last week were attributed to a power failure, and to her knowledge, six locations had still not been repaired. She declined to reveal where they are.

"So I don't necessarily want to put that information out at this moment," said Greene. "I want to give them the opportunity to fix it. We let our partners know where those outages have occurred, so if there was a need for police or fire to go into the tunnel, or operationally if they need to go into Metro, so they know where the outages are."

When questioned by reporters, Chief Jones said he wasn't too concerned about the radio system failures.

"Well, I didn't have a lack of confidence before," said Jones. "I think that our firefighters know that there are things they need to do if the communications systems don't work. We are emergency responders and there are things that may not be clear to us when we arrive on a scene and we need to adjust. But with the weekly testing, we now know ahead of time."

Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel denied a claim there are still outages in the system.

"There is currently no systemic issue with the radio system used by D.C.'s first responders. Our radio technicians are in constant contact with the jurisdictions as they report any exceptions found in the course of their routine testing, and we are acting quickly to resolve any issues that are found."