The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association Union Hall is calling for a third-party investigation after emergency radio service was disrupted for several hours Tuesday night.
But the union and the San Antonio Fire Department are sharing two different versions of how services were affected.
SAFD says the outage lasted about three hours starting shortly after 9 p.m., but the union says the outage lasted five hours.
It prevented firefighters from communicating to dispatch from scenes of emergencies It also prohibited crews already on scenes from radioing to units responding from other areas.
The union says this kind of disruption happens several times a year and that it affects response times and puts the public -- as well as the firefighters themselves -- at risk.
“Three hours or five hours it went down, whatever. That’s three hours or five hours where the citizens are not getting public safety ... the service that they deserve. It's substandard.” said union President Chris Steele. “And this is just something that overheated?”
But SAFD says no one’s safety was compromised during the disruption.
The department tells KSAT 12 a system is in place should communication fail and that back-up system worked last night.
“We had all of our firefighters switch over to a local system instead of a citywide system,” said SAFD Communications Chief Vance Meade. “So that way they were all able to talk to each other. The incident command was able to talk to all personnel to ensure their safety and direct them.”
The incident command technician then used their cell phones to communicate with dispatch.
But the union says relying on cell phones when lives could be on the line is unacceptable, which is why they are calling for the city to investigate, as well as a third party.
The computer operated communication system is run out of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
SAFD says that temperature sensors will be installed to prevent the system from overheating again.