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Context of 'Summer 2001: Disaster Response Exercises Help Prepare Insurers for Responding to the 9/11 Attacks'

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is established to oversee federal planning for natural disasters, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, and other potential emergencies. The Carter Administration sought the creation of FEMA after the nation’s emergency response plans came under strong criticism for being disorganized and spread across numerous bureaucratic agencies. Pursuant to Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and Executive Order 12127, FEMA will now consolidate several disaster and emergency preparedness agencies into a single agency within the executive branch. FEMA will incorporate the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, the Federal Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration, the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, the National Fire Academy, and the Community Preparedness Program. It will also take over several programs formally run out of the Executive Office of the President, including those pertaining to earthquake preparedness, management of terrorist attacks, dam safety, and the nation’s emergency warning and broadcasting systems. [United Press International, 5/9/1977; Message of the President, 6/19/1978; President Jimmy Carter, 3/31/1979; B. Wayne Blanchard, 2/5/2008, pp. 23-24]

Entity Tags: Federal Preparedness Agency, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The New York State Insurance Disaster Coalition, which comprises a number of public and private organizations, holds two training exercises based around the scenario of a hurricane hitting the state, and these will improve the response of insurance companies and other coalition members to the 9/11 attacks just weeks later. The Disaster Coalition was recently set up by the State of New York, modeled on the “Partners in Recovery” program established in Florida after Hurricane Andrew struck the state in 1992. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) developed a national program called State Disaster Coalitions that would be responsible for creating long-term partnerships between public and private sector leaders so as to enhance cooperation, communication, and the use of resources after a catastrophic event. New York then became the first state in the US to develop the IBHS State Disaster Coalition model. Its Disaster Coalition includes the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the New York Department of Insurance, the New York Insurance Association, and several insurance companies. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2002; Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, 2003, pp. 449] The Disaster Coalition has developed the “New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan,” which enables the creation of a new public-private disaster planning team in order to expedite the state’s response to catastrophes and facilitate the recovery of those who have insured losses. [Gregory V. Serio, 5/10/2001]
Exercises Consider a Hurricane Striking the State - Members of the Disaster Coalition now participate in two tabletop exercises and technology tests, to assess the program’s readiness and the thoroughness of the program’s strategy. The exercises, which are led by the SEMO, are based around the scenario of a major hurricane hitting Long Island. Participants will subsequently consider both exercises to have been successful. It will be determined that the Disaster Coalition is ready to deal with an emergency, and the necessary infrastructure is in place to implement an effective and unified public-private response to a major catastrophic event in the state.
Coalition's Response Plan Will Be Activated on 9/11 - The Disaster Coalition will play a significant role a few weeks later, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Its representatives will assemble at the Insurance Emergency Operations Center in Albany, where they will work as part of a team on behalf of the victims of the attacks. The New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan will be activated within two hours of the collapses of the Twin Towers. Despite the unprecedented challenge the attacks present, the financial needs of most victims who file insurance claims will be met. Furthermore, the number of complaints will be unusually low for such a huge catastrophe. Despite nearly 19,000 insurance claims being made, only 20 complaints will be filed.
Plan Will Be Found to Have Improved the Response to the 9/11 Attacks - Disaster Coalition members and insurance catastrophe team leaders will meet two months after the attacks to assess how well their plan functioned throughout the crisis. At the gathering, one insurance company representative will comment that colleagues in his home office had known New York could handle the unprecedented events because the state “had a Disaster Coalition capable of responding in the best way possible under catastrophic conditions.” Commenting on the success of the program, Harvey Ryland, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, will write: “It’s hard to think that things could have been worse on September 11, but the lessons learned from [Hurricane] Andrew led the way so that victims could be helped faster and recovery could take place more quickly, through public and private partnership.” [George E. Pataki and Gregory V. Serio, 12/31/2001, pp. 12 pdf file; Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, New York State Insurance Disaster Coalition, New York Department of Insurance, Harvey Ryland, New York Insurance Association, New York State Emergency Management Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bruce Baughman.Bruce Baughman. [Source: Elise Moore / FEMA]Bruce Baughman, director of the planning and readiness division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), takes charge at FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, because more senior FEMA officials, including the agency’s director, are away from the capital. FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh and Lacy Suiter, FEMA’s assistant director of readiness, response, and recovery, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (see September 8-11, 2001 and After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Baughman, who led FEMA’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), therefore has to take charge of FEMA’s response to today’s terrorist attacks. In this capacity, he is responsible for activating FEMA’s emergency operations center, dispatching disaster medical personnel to the scenes of the attacks, and establishing emergency communications for New York. After the Twin Towers come down (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), he calls up the first FEMA urban search and rescue teams, which specialize in rescuing people from collapsed structures. [Block and Cooper, 2006, pp. 73-75] He will subsequently personally brief President Bush on three days while response operations are underway. [9/11 Commission, 11/17/2003 pdf file]
FEMA Will Help Local Agencies Respond to the Attacks - In May, Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to terrorist attacks in the United States (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] The agency therefore plays a key role in the government’s response to today’s attacks. The emergency response team at its headquarters is activated today, along with all 10 of its regional operations centers. It also activates its federal response plan, which, it states, “brings together 28 federal agencies and the American Red Cross to assist local and state governments in response to national emergencies and disasters.” It deploys eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the debris from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, and four urban search and rescue teams to the Pentagon to assist the response there. These teams consist mainly of local emergency services personnel, and are trained and equipped to handle structural collapses. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; US National Response Team, 2014, pp. 2 pdf file] In the days and weeks following the attacks, it will work with state and city officials to carry out the task of removing the debris from the WTC site. [Block and Cooper, 2006, pp. 75]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joseph M. Allbaugh, Bruce Baughman, Lacy E. Suiter

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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