Mayor defends city's emergency communications
April 12, 2007 (WLS) -- Mayor Richard Daley and his top emergency team Thursday vigorously defended the city's ability to communicate during a crisis. They were responding to an ABC7 I-Team report Wednesday night that uncovered serious technical difficulties with the city's emergency communication.
City officials came out swinging after the I-Team found that Chicago's most important emergency communications vehicle was ordered parked by federal authorities and that valuable city radio frequencies were about to be terminated.
Ironically, Mayor Daley and his emergency staff had to answer questions about The I-Team story Thursday morning as they were attempting to tout a new security system at McCormick Place.
"Technology is replacing the eyes and ears of everyone," Mayor Daley said.
Mayor Daley was talking about this new technology that debuted Thursday at McCormick Place -- 450 cameras scattered through the city's convention center that he says will automatically snoop out wrongdoing.
The mayor was just as enthused last fall while unveiling a $2 million satellite communications van, but one we found has been incommunicado since the mayor's unveiling, cursed by technical glitches and the city failure to obtain federal operating permits. Despite federal records that prove the city equipment was unauthorized for use the past six months, Chicago's disaster czar Thursday maintained there has never been a problem with the unified communications vehicle, or UCV.
"The UCV does have satellite capability. It has had it from the very beginning," said Cortez Trotter, Chicago chief emergency officer.
It may have had the capability, but a rejection letter from the Federal Communications Commission just last month prohibited the city from turning it on and using it. The FCC said that, from the beginning, Chicago hadn't fulfilled all the requirements for a satellite permit.
Thursday, though, Mayor Daley admonished news reporters not to listen to the FCC, that federal agency that barred legal use of the truck. The mayor told reporters to listen to the city's acting director of emergency communication, who says everything is fine.
"At no time since the vehicle was delivered was it ever interoperable or inoperable. As a matter of fact, we use this on a regular basis," said Jim Argiropoulos, acting OEMC director.
Indeed, just Wednesday -- after learning that the I-Team was going to report this story -- Argiropoulos sent an emergency request to the FCC asking them to issue a special temporary permit to operate the satellite communications truck.
"I'm telling you, I talked to the FCC last night and at no time has this truck ever been in jeopardy," Argiropoulos said.
It may not have been in jeopardy, because it was filled with gas and the brakes worked, but until Wednesday night, if there had been a terrorist attack on Chicago, the city's prime emergency communications tool couldn't legally have been used because the city had no federal license to use it.
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