The report found shocking issues with the new system, which was only in operation a month at the time of the fire.


HOUSTON -- More than a year after the darkest day in the history of Houston Fire Department, there are still plenty of changes to be made.

"This is actually a training package this is a living document," Chief Terry Garrison said of the 193 page report on the fire at the Southwest Inn that claimed the lives of four firefighters

That new training will start this weekend to try to keep another tragedy from happening, but there are plenty of issues found with systems at HFD. Specifically the digital radio system that faced its first big test that day and by many accounts failed.

The report found shocking issues with the new system, which was only in operation a month at the time of the fire.

In the first hour of that fire no one could communicate 11 percent of the time mainly because too many people were trying to talk on the new system at the same time.

In addition despite four traditional mayday radio calls, nobody activated the mayday button on the new radios, "I can train on it all day long but if I can't reach up to hit that button it doesn't do me any good," said Assistant Chief Richard Mann who oversees the communication system.

Ultimately no one thinks that the flaws in the radio system led directly to the deaths of the firefighters, "I think that there was probably some communication that did not make from here to there on the fire ground. I don't think that impacted what was happening right here right now," said Chief Garrison.

There had been more than ten years of design on the city wide radio system and tons of testing done, but none of that testing was specific to the needs of the fire department on a major fire scene.

Mainly, there was no way for commanders to take control of the communication.

Significant changes have already been made in the digital radio system, "Now the incident commanders and the chiefs on the scene have higher priority on the radio system," said Chief Garrison.

In all there are six different major fixes that are recommended and five of them will be complete in the next few weeks.

REPORT: Complete report on Southwest Inn fire

All those changes are good for the future, but Chief Garrison thinks that the blame for the death of the firefighters ultimately will go to gravity, "I think that unfortunately in this incident when that ceiling fell on our four members I don't think that the radio communications had anything to do with that piece."

This document does not address the cause of either the fire or the exact issues leading up to the deaths of the four firefighters, Garrison says that will come in the official fire investigations.

There are two of those and that will be a longer wait.

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