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9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001: Announcement in WTC’s South Tower Advises People to Evacuate

An announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers that they can begin an orderly evacuation of the building if conditions warrant it. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] A previous announcement over the public address system instructed people in the South Tower to stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] The new announcement begins: “May I have your attention, please. Repeating this message: the situation occurred in Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower].” The announcer then says, “If the conditions warrant on your floor, you may wish to start an orderly evacuation.” [New York Times, 5/17/2004] The announcement is presumably made by Philip Hayes, the deputy fire safety director on duty at the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. A button at the desk enables fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the public address system. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Identity of Person Who Ordered Evacuation Unclear - The new advice, for tenants to evacuate, does “not correspond to any prewritten emergency instruction,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] It is unclear who told Hayes to make the announcement giving this advice. George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, contacted the fire command desks in the Twin Towers immediately after Flight 11 hit the North Tower, with instructions about what to do. His orders for Hayes, however, were to “keep people inside the South Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011]
Police Commander Called for Evacuation of WTC - Captain Anthony Whitaker, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) commanding officer at the WTC, called for the evacuation of the WTC at 9:00 a.m. (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, his instruction was given over PAPD radio channel W, “which could not be heard by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 184-185; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 201] Furthermore, according to the Port Authority, deputy fire safety directors do not generally take direct orders from the PAPD under the regular chain of command. Therefore, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, it is “not known if [Hayes] received the order by the PAPD to evacuate the complex.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 544]
Fire Department Responsible for Ordering Evacuations - According to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, “The authority to order an evacuation during a fire normally rests with the fire department.” [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 79] In a phone call with his counterpart in the North Tower, at 8:49 a.m., Hayes in fact said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department or somebody” before ordering an evacuation of the South Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27] But whether someone from the fire department told Hayes to order an evacuation is unknown. It is also unclear how long announcements, advising an evacuation, continue for. Hayes and his counterpart in the North Tower are “making announcements that the situation was serious and that occupants should evacuate immediately” for “[a]s long as the [fire alarm system] was still operational,” according to Fire Engineering magazine. [Fire Engineering, 11/1/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Evidence suggests that the public address system [in the South Tower] did not continue to function after the building was hit.” This would mean no announcements go out after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 295] By the time the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), out of around 8,540 people who were originally in the building, 7,940 (93 percent) have made it out and will survive, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005]

Entity Tags: Philip T. Hayes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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