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Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001: WTC Security Manager Orders Announcement Advising Workers Not to Evacuate the South Tower

George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, decides to have an announcement made in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, instructing workers to stay in, or return to, their offices, instead of evacuating. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011] After Flight 11 hits the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower, who are unclear about what has happened, decide to leave their building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287]
Security Manager Passes on Decision to Fire Command Desk - However, around the same time, Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, decides not to evacuate the South Tower and to issue instructions advising workers to go back to their offices. [ABC News, 9/10/2011] Tabeek will later recall that he contacts his “fire safety command” and tells the person he talks with “to evacuate the North Tower, but keep people inside the South Tower.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011] Presumably Tabeek means that he contacts the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower, which is currently manned by Philip Hayes, a deputy fire safety director. A button at the desk allows fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the tower’s public address system. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Security Manager's Instruction Leads to Announcement - Shortly after Tabeek gives his instruction to the fire command desk, an announcement, later believed to have been made by Hayes, will go out over the public address system, telling workers in the South Tower that their building is safe and advising them to stay in, or return to, their offices (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] That announcement “may have led to the deaths of hundreds of people,” USA Today will suggest. [USA Today, 9/2/2002] Some security officials in the South Tower will instruct workers, in person, to return upstairs, rather than evacuate (see (8:47 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unclear if those officials are, like Hayes, acting on instructions issued by Tabeek. [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289]
Instruction Is Inconsistent with Protocol - Tabeek’s instruction reportedly goes against protocol. The 9/11 Commission Report will state: “When a notable event occurred [at the WTC], it was standard procedure for the on-duty deputy fire safety director to make an ‘advisory’ announcement to tenants who were affected by or might be aware of the incident, in order to acknowledge the incident and to direct tenants to stand by for further instructions. The purpose of advisory announcements, as opposed to ‘emergency’ announcements (such as to evacuate), was to reduce panic.” Therefore, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “A statement from the deputy fire safety director informing tenants that the incident had occurred in the other building” would be “consistent with protocol.” However, “the expanded advice” that Tabeek asks to be given—for workers to stay in, or return to, their offices—“did not correspond to any existing written protocol.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 288, 544]
Security Manager Thinks Evacuation Would Put Workers in Danger - Tabeek will explain why he decided to instruct workers to stay in the South Tower, telling ABC News he was “worried about the debris raining down from the crippled North Tower onto the plaza below,” and he was therefore “afraid that if he evacuated people who he thought were safe in the South Tower… they’d be in grave danger from the falling debris.” He will tell the New Jersey Star-Ledger, “If these people’s lives in [the South Tower] are not in danger, if I put them outside, their life is in danger.” Tabeek will also explain his decision by saying, “We never took into consideration a dual attack.” In response to criticism of his decision, he will say, “I can’t go back on the orders I gave, because at the time it was the right thing to do.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011]

Entity Tags: George Tabeek, Philip T. Hayes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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