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Context of 'September 8-11, 2001: Many of Nation’s Top Emergency Managers in Montana for Major Conference; Focus Is on Domestic Terrorism and WMD'

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Vice President Dick Cheney on television, May 8, 2001.Vice President Dick Cheney on television, May 8, 2001. [Source: CNN]In a brief statement, President Bush announces that Vice President Dick Cheney will oversee a “coordinated national effort” aimed at integrating the government’s plans for responding to the use of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon within the United States. Bush declares, “Should our efforts to reduce the threat to our country from weapons of mass destruction be less than fully successful, prudence dictates that the United States be fully prepared to deal effectively with the consequences of such a weapon being used here on our soil.” Bush says a new agency within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known as the Office of National Preparedness, will be “responsible for implementing the results of those parts of the national effort overseen by Vice President Cheney that deal with consequence management.” The Office of National Preparedness appears to be a reincarnation of FEMA’s old National Preparedness Directorate (NPD), which was disbanded by the Clinton administration in 1993 (see January 1993-October 1994). During the 1980s and early 1990s, the NPD secretly spent billions of dollars preparing for nuclear war and other national emergencies as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program (see February 1993, 1982-1991, and April 1, 1979-Present). [Cox News Service, 2/22/1993] Under the Bush administration, the Office of National Preparedness (ONP) will apparently take over where the National Preparedness Directorate left off. According to Bush, the ONP “will coordinate all Federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies.” Cheney, who played a central role in the COG program during the Reagan administration (see 1981-1992 and 1980s), informs CNN, “[O]ne of our biggest threats as a nation” could be “domestic terrorism, but it may also be a terrorist organization overseas or even another state using weapons of mass destruction against the US.… [W]e need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense.” According to FEMA, the ONP will be up and running as early as the summer of 2001. President Bush says he “will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.” [CNN, 5/8/2001; White House, 5/8/2001; New York Times, 7/8/2002] Cheney is meant to head a group that will draft a national terrorism response plan by October 1. [Chicago Sun-Times, 5/5/2001; Insight on the News, 6/18/2001] But, according to Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, “Neither Cheney’s review nor Bush’s took place.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) later implies that Bush assigned this specific role to Cheney in order to prevent Congress from enacting counterterrorism legislation proposed by a bipartisan commission he had co-chaired in January (see January 31, 2001). [Salon, 4/2/2004; Salon, 4/6/2004] In July, two senators will send draft counterterrorism legislation to Cheney’s office, but a day before 9/11, they are told it might be another six months before he gets to it (see September 10, 2001). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Cheney’s “National Preparedness Review” is just beginning to hire staff a few days before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). [Congressional Quarterly, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Gary Hart, George W. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of National Preparedness, National Security Council, National Preparedness Directorate, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Big Sky Resort, Montana.Big Sky Resort, Montana. [Source: FedCenter.gov]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), where the main focuses include the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Most State Emergency Managers in Attendance - Conference attendees include around 350 government and industry emergency specialists. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] Among them are almost all of America’s state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] They are there, reportedly, “to hear briefings on the latest issues in domestic preparedness, improve state and local capabilities, address energy shortages, and discuss lessons from the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake.” [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] The attendees discuss anti-terrorism planning courses, and the status of federal aid and cooperation efforts. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Allbaugh is the event’s keynote speaker and gives his talk on September 10, in which he describes his focus on improving emergency capabilities and preparing for disaster. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Conference Ends Early Due to Attacks - The NEMA conference is originally scheduled to run until September 12. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001] But because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it ends a day early (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Special arrangements are then made for some of the emergency managers in attendance to be flown home on military aircraft, while others have to drive long distances back to their states (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Timing of Attacks Inconvenient - In May this year, President Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to any terrorist attacks in the United States, charging it with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to such attacks (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] Following the attacks on September 11, FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenience of these attacks occurring at the same time as the NEMA conference. He will say that FEMA officials do not know whether the attacks were timed to catch emergency officials off guard, but “it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Its annual conference is being held in Montana this year because its president, Jim Greene, is the administrator of the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services Division. [Billings Gazette, 10/5/2000; National Journal, 1/16/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mark Wolfson, Joseph M. Allbaugh, National Emergency Management Association

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrive in New York for a forthcoming training exercise and, as a result, their equipment is available to be used by members of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) who are involved in search and rescue operations at Ground Zero the following day. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196] The FEMA representatives are among hundreds of people scheduled to take part in a terrorism training exercise on September 12 that is being organized by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (see September 12, 2001). The exercise, called “Tripod,” is set to take place at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; City of New York, 5/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
FEMA Personnel Set Up Equipment for Exercise - The FEMA personnel arrive in New York at some time on September 10 and begin setting up their equipment at Pier 92 for the forthcoming exercise, according to a book by NYPD police officer Anthea Appel. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195] It is unclear which specific FEMA personnel arrive in New York on this day. The first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to respond at Ground Zero will arrive in New York late at night on September 11 (see (10:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Government Executive, 9/1/2002; Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002] And most of the senior FEMA staff is currently in Montana, attending a conference (see September 8-11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
FEMA Equipment Used by Emergency Responders on 9/11 - In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, according to Appel, the FEMA equipment that is being set up at Pier 92 for the exercise will be packed up and moved to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where the ESU sets up a command post. Then, at around 5:00 p.m., it will be moved to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, to be used by ESU officers involved in the search and rescue efforts there. [McKinsey & Company, 8/19/2002 pdf file; Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196]

Entity Tags: Tripod, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Judy Martz.Judy Martz. [Source: Publicity photo]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are away from their home states at the time of the terrorist attacks, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) at a resort in Big Sky, Montana. The main focuses of the event have included the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] The conference began on September 8, and was originally planned to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001]
Emergency Managers Learn of Attacks - At 9:00 a.m., conference attendees are scheduled to participate in a series of sessions on domestic preparedness, which has been a key topic for NEMA over the past three years. [National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] According to the New York Times, “One of the day’s main seminar topics was how to prepare for terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 9/12/2001] However, numerous pagers go off as officials are notified of the events in New York. By the time officials gather around the television in the resort’s bar to see what is happening, the second plane has hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the nature of the emergency is obvious. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002]
Emergency Managers Respond to Attacks - After the emergency managers at the conference see the coverage of the attacks on television, they “automatically organized themselves into particular groups to focus on transportation issues or to capture information,” Trina Hembree, the executive director of NEMA, will later recall. [Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001] The emergency managers, along with federal personnel and private-sector members, go about coordinating their jurisdictions’ responses to the attacks from the resort. Hotel employees add phone lines and equipment so as to enable communication and the tracking of events. A 24-hour emergency operations center is set up, and teams are organized to address specific areas, such as transportation and medical needs. The emergency managers monitor events and stay in contact with their agencies by phone, and also attend briefings at the resort, where they are updated on the national situation. [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
State of Emergency Declared in Montana - Partly due to concerns over the safety of the emergency management officials at the conference, Montana Governor Judy Martz declares a state of emergency. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] Furthermore, roads to the Big Sky resort are closed, and security for the resort is provided by the local sheriff’s department and volunteer fire department, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Montana National Guard, and the FBI.
Arrangements Made to Fly Key Officials Home - The conference’s organizers arrange for military aircraft to fly state emergency management leaders back to their capitals. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] Allbaugh and officials from several states that are directly involved in the attacks are flown home throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), but others at the conference have to drive long distances back to their states.
Emergency Managers 'Not Where They Wanted to Be' - As one news report will later describe, when the attacks occur, “emergency managers were not where they wanted to be.” FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenient timing of the attacks, saying that FEMA officials do not know whether they were timed to catch emergency officials off guard. “That would be speculation,” he says. “But it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Hundreds of state emergency management officials, including almost all of the US’s state emergency management directors, and most of the senior FEMA staff are in Montana for its annual conference. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joseph M. Allbaugh, Judy Martz, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Emergency Management Association, Trina Hembree, Mark Wolfson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Joseph Allbaugh.Joseph Allbaugh. [Source: Greg Schaler / FEMA]Joseph Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is flown back to Washington, DC, after leaving a major conference he has been attending in Montana. [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file; CNN, 10/4/2001; 119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Allbaugh was one of hundreds of emergency management officials from around the US attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in Big Sky, Montana, which began on September 8 and was originally scheduled to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). He was the keynote speaker at the conference, and in his speech the previous day, September 10, talked about his focus on improving capabilities and preparing for disaster. [National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]
Allbaugh Sees Second Attack on TV - Allbaugh will later recall that on this morning, he “turned on CNN” and “actually saw the second plane hit the tower.” He will comment, “I thought it was a movie clip,” but then “reality started sinking in.” When he learned that the plane was the second to have hit the World Trade Center, he knew “immediately it was terrorism.” [CNN, 10/4/2001] Allbaugh went into the meeting he was due to attend and announced: “You all will have to excuse me. I have more pressing matters.” [Associated Press, 9/8/2002] He was then one of the first to leave the NEMA conference. [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Conflicting Accounts of Flight - Allbaugh is subsequently flown back to Washington, although there are conflicting accounts of his journey. Allbaugh will later recall that after leaving the conference, he moved on to the city of Bozeman, Montana, and then “waited a couple of hours for a plane.” Finally, he will say, a KC-135 military tanker plane flies him back to the capital. [CNN, 10/4/2001] According to another account, Major Rick Gibney, a pilot with the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, was originally tasked with flying Allbaugh home in his F-16 fighter jet, but, instead, an Air Force C-17 cargo plane is diverted to transport the FEMA director back to Washington. [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] But the Gainesville Sun will report that Allbaugh initially headed out from the conference with Craig Fugate, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Fugate rented a car to drive back to Florida and Allbaugh joined him as a passenger. Allbaugh was then dropped off in Missouri, from where he is flown back to Washington. [Gainesville Sun, 10/22/2005] Other emergency management officials that were at the NEMA conference are also flown home on military aircraft throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file; Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001]
Allbaugh Joins President and Others at the White House - Allbaugh will recall that his flight to Washington takes four and a half hours. After arriving back in the capital, he heads directly to the White House, where he spends the evening with the president, vice president, and many others. [CNN, 10/4/2001] It is unclear when exactly Allbaugh arrives in Washington, though he will be at the White House by 7:15 p.m., when he gives a press briefing. [White House, 9/11/2001]
Allbaugh in Charge of Responding to Domestic Terrorist Attacks - In May this year, President Bush put Allbaugh, as FEMA director, in charge of “consequence management” in response to any terrorist attacks in the United States. Allbaugh was charged with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to any such attack (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] FEMA plays an important part in the government’s response to the attacks in New York and Washington on this day. It puts its “federal response plan” into effect, which involves coordinating with 28 other federal agencies and the American Red Cross; it dispatches eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the rubble of the WTC; and it has four urban search and rescue teams sifting through the remains of the crash at the Pentagon. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Craig Fugate, Joseph M. Allbaugh, National Emergency Management Association, Rick Gibney, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman, Montana.Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman, Montana. [Source: Gallatin Field Airport]Several dozen emergency management officials and federal staff from Eastern US states, including Virginia and Washington, DC, are flown back to their home states from Montana. They are among hundreds of emergency management personnel who have been attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in Big Sky, Montana, which began on September 8 (see September 8-11, 2001). [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] The emergency managers learned of the attacks in New York while waiting to participate in a series of conference sessions on domestic preparedness (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file; Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] The conference’s organizers then began arranging for military aircraft to fly state emergency management leaders back to their capitals. [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Seven Hours before Plane Cleared to Fly Managers Home - An Air Force C-17 cargo plane now flies more than 40 emergency managers and federal staff from the airport in Bozeman, Montana, back to their home states. They have had to wait at the airport for more than seven hours while others at the conference site arranged clearance from the FAA for the aircraft to take them home. [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file] Military aircraft reportedly fly about 23 emergency management directors back to their home states on this day. [Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001] Ed Jacoby, the director of the New York State Emergency Management Office, was flown back to New York State earlier on (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001; Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Many of those attending the NEMA conference who are unable to get on emergency military flights to take them home have to instead drive hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of miles to get back to their states. [State Government News, 10/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Management Association

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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