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Context of '(2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Decision Made to Abandon WTC 7'

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Battalion Chief Ray Downey of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) warns senior firefighters about the need to prepare for terrorist attacks and says another attack in the United States is “going to happen.” He issues the warning in a speech he gives at the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference, a six-day event in Indianapolis, Indiana. [Fire Engineering, 7/1997; Fire Engineering, 9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Fire Chief Says Firefighters Have a 'Lot to Learn' about Terrorism - Downey says in his speech: “Terrorism has taken on a new light. It’s a new part of the fire service that we all had better prepare for.” He mentions the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993), the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 1996. He warns, “I stand up here to tell you, having been involved in [responding to] all three of those terrorist incidents personally, at the scene, that we have an awful lot to learn.”
Chief Says a Chemical or Biological Attack Is 'Going to Happen' - Downey describes a number of smaller-scale terrorist attacks or planned terrorist attacks that have occurred in the US in just the last six or eight months and then asks, “Is the fire service ready to handle these incidents?” He asks the firefighters attending his speech if they know about chemical agents such as “sarin” and “mustard gas” or biological agents such as “anthrax” and “botulism.” He asks if they think an attack involving one of these agents is “not possible.” He then cautions them to “[g]et with it” and says, “It’s not a matter of what, where, or who—but when” such an attack will occur. He concludes, “It’s going to happen—accept the fact.” [Fire Engineering, 9/1997]
Chief Helps Prepare His Department to Respond to Terrorism - Downey is a member of the FDNY’s Special Operations Command (SOC) and is put in charge of the unit sometime this year. [New York Times, 11/22/2001; Fire Engineering, 3/2002] The SOC is an elite group of firefighters who respond to unique fire and emergency situations. [Long Island Herald, 7/13/2007; Smithsonian, 8/31/2013] Its members are trained to deal with catastrophes. [New York Daily News, 10/21/2001] As head of the unit, Downey will be responsible for planning the FDNY’s response to terrorist attacks. [Downey, 2004, pp. 222] Fire Engineering magazine will comment in 2002, “Due in part to [Downey’s] diligence, FDNY is one of the best equipped and most prepared fire departments in terrorism response in the world.” [Fire Engineering, 3/2002] Downey will be killed when the WTC collapses on September 11, 2001. [New York Times, 11/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Ray Downey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the World Trade Center, and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) take part in training exercises that simulate major fires on upper floors of the WTC. [Newsday, 11/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/3/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file]
bullet On June 6, 1999, members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) and the FDNY participate in an exercise that simulates a five-alarm, full-floor fire on the 92nd floor of the WTC’s South Tower. The exercise, held early on a Sunday morning, makes use of smoke machines, lighting, and mannequins, to create a realistic environment for participants. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file]
bullet In September 2000, the Port Authority and the FDNY conduct a similar exercise on the empty 93rd floor of one of the Twin Towers (the particular tower is unstated). Like the June 1999 exercise, it is held on a Sunday morning, simulates a five-alarm fire, and uses smoke machines to make it more realistic. Alan Reiss, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will later recall: “It was a major full-floor high-rise fire. It was a full-scale fire simulation.” Five FDNY engine companies take part. The exercise is videotaped and elevators are unavailable while it is taking place. [Newsday, 11/12/2001]
bullet At some point in the summer of 2001, the Port Authority and 30 FDNY companies train for a five-alarm fire on the 90th floor of the South Tower. Fire safety directors working for OCS Security, which holds the fire safety contract for the WTC, also take part in the exercise. [9/11 Commission, 11/3/2003]
The PAPD holds “annual tabletop drills involving both police and the civilian management at the World Trade Center,” to exercise the emergency response plans for the WTC, according to Reiss. These drills are developed by PAPD specialists, Reiss will say, and other agencies besides the Port Authority—such as the FDNY—can participate. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] However, despite being recommended in 1993 to train for the event of a plane hitting the WTC (see (March 29, 1993)), the Port Authority conducts no exercises simulating that scenario in the subsequent eight years before 9/11. [Newsday, 11/12/2001] Whether the Port Authority held exercises simulating large fires on the upper floors of the WTC before 1999 is unclear.

Entity Tags: New York City Fire Department, World Trade Center, OCS Security, Port Authority Police Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Alan Reiss

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.Members of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. [Source: Daniel Wetzel / US Marine Corps]Members of the US Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) participate in a major training exercise with the New York Fire Department (FDNY) sometime this month. During the exercise, the FDNY’s response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) is discussed, according to Colonel Thomas Hammes, commanding officer of the CBIRF. Further details of the exercise are unstated. The CBIRF was established by the Marine Corps in 1996 in order to support first responders during attacks involving chemical or biological weapons. [Lerner and Lerner, 2003, pp. 176; Hammes, 2004, pp. xii] It has around 370 members and is capable of deploying rapidly to anywhere in the world if there is an attack involving weapons of mass destruction or if a chemical, biological, or nuclear agent is released. [Washington Post, 1/8/2000; US Marine Corps, 7/21/2000] The unit has a history with the FDNY going back to when it was founded in 1996. FDNY Deputy Chief Ray Downey in fact helped develop its original training. [US Marine Corps, 4/23/2010] It moved from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland, in the summer of 2000. [US Department of Defense, 7/2001, pp. 125 pdf file] The move, it was reported at the time, would “place CBIRF closer to Washington, DC, and New York City,” thereby “reducing response time to crucial national locations.” [US Marine Corps, 7/21/2000] On September 11, the CBIRF’s immediate response force will prepare to respond to the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, if needed. The unit will not be deployed, though, and will instead be held in reserve in case there is a weapons of mass destruction attack in the Washington area. [Hammes, 2004, pp. xii-xiii]

Entity Tags: US Marine Corps, New York City Fire Department, Thomas X. Hammes, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The chief fire officer who has been assigned to take charge of operations at WTC Building 7 meets with his command officer, to discuss the condition of this building and the fire department’s capabilities for controlling the fires in it. A deputy fire chief who has just been in WTC 7, inspecting up to its 7th or 8th floor, reports that there was a lot of fire inside and the stairway was filling with smoke. The fire chiefs discuss the situation and identify the following conditions:
bullet WTC 7 has suffered damage caused by falling debris from the Twin Towers, and they are uncertain about its structural stability.
bullet There are large fires on at least six floors.
bullet They do not have enough equipment available for conducting operations in the building, such as hoses, standpipe kits, and handie-talkies.
bullet There is no water immediately available for fighting the fires. (However, this concern is apparently contradicted by reports that two or three fireboats are moored nearby, specifically to provide water-pumping capacity for the WTC site.)
Therefore, at around 2:30 p.m., fire officers decide to completely abandon WTC 7 and a final order is given to evacuate the site. Firefighters and other emergency workers will be withdrawn from the surrounding area (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and Building 7 collapses later in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Firehouse (.com), 9/17/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110-111]

Entity Tags: New York City Fire Department, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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