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Context of '1996-September 11, 2001: New York Office of Emergency Management Practices for Terrorist Attacks, but Not Using Planes as Missiles'

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New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) holds regular interagency training exercises in the years preceding 9/11, aiming to carry out a tabletop or field exercise every eight to 12 weeks. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is personally involved in many of these. The exercises are very lifelike. Giuliani will later recall, “We used to take pictures of these trial runs and they were so realistic that people who saw them would ask when the event shown in the photograph had occurred.” Scenarios drilled include a sarin gas attack in Manhattan, anthrax attacks, and truck bombs. One exercise, which takes place in May 2001, is based on terrorists attacking New York with bubonic plague (see May 11, 2001). Another, conducted in conjunction with the New York Port Authority, includes a simulated plane crash. Just one week before 9/11, the OEM is preparing a tabletop exercise with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to develop plans for business continuity in New York’s Financial District—where the World Trade Center is located—after a terrorist attack (see (September 4, 2001)). OEM staffers are actually preparing for a bioterrorism exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). Jerome Hauer, OEM director from 1996 to February 2000, will recall, “We looked at every conceivable threat that anyone on the staff could think of, be it natural or intentional, but not the use of aircraft as missiles.” He will tell the 9/11 Commission: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire.… There was never a sense, as I said in my testimony, that aircraft were going to be used as missiles.” [Time, 12/22/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 62-63; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15, 30; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004 pdf file] The OEM was created in 1996 by Giuliani to manage New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Jerome Hauer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is located in World Trade Center Building 7, organizes a bio-terrorism drill where militant extremists attack the city with bubonic plague and Manhattan is quarantined. The “tabletop exercise” is called RED Ex—meaning “Recognition, Evaluation, and Decision-Making Exercise” —and involves about seventy different entities, agencies, and locales from the New York area. Federal legislation adopted in 1997 requires federal, state, and local authorities to conduct regular exercises as part of the Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP). The US Defense Department chose New York City as the venue for RED Ex due to its size, prominence, and level of emergency preparedness. Various high-level officials take part, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Director Richard Sheirer, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Agencies and organizations that participate include New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The exercise is supposedly so intense that, according to one participant, “five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill.” [New York City Government, 5/11/2001; New York City Government, 9/5/2001, pp. 74 pdf file; New York Sun, 12/20/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] According to OEM Director Richard Sheirer, “Operation RED Ex provided a proving ground and a great readiness training exercise for the many challenges the city routinely faces, such as weather events, heat emergencies, building collapses, fires, and public safety and health issues.” [New York City Government, 5/11/2001] In his prepared testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Bernard Kerik later states: “The City, through its OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies; and those plans were tested frequently.” The types of emergencies they prepared for, he states, included “building collapses” and “plane crashes.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] Considering Richard Sheirer’s comments, RED Ex appears to be one example where the city tests for building collapses. Details about training for airplanes crashing into New York City remain unknown. The second part of this exercise, called Tripod, is scheduled to take place in New York on September 12, 2001, but is cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks.

Entity Tags: New York City Fire Department, US Department of Defense, World Trade Center, Bernard Kerik, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, National Air College, New York City Police Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Preparations take place for a training exercise that will develop plans for restoring operations in New York’s Financial District, where the World Trade Center is located, after a terrorist attack. A week before the 9/11 attacks, according to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are “preparing a tabletop exercise to develop plans for [the] recovery of operations and business continuity in the Financial District after a terrorist attack.” It is unclear whether the exercise takes place now or is simply being prepared for and is scheduled to take place at a later date. The report will note that plans for a program that enables the credentialing of key personnel so businesses can gain access to a restricted area in an emergency have been tested in Buffalo, New York. Presumably this program is discussed as part of the current exercise preparations. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 30] The program is apparently the Corporate Emergency Access System, which was developed by the Business Network of Emergency Resources, a nonprofit organization based in Buffalo. Under this system, organizations designate essential employees who should, if necessary, have access to their facilities during emergencies in order to perform business recovery activities. [General Accounting Office, 2/2003, pp. 100 pdf file; Contingency Planning and Management, 5/2004 pdf file] The OEM was created in 1996 by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani with the purpose of, among other things, improving New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks (see 1996). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283] The MTA is the public benefit corporation that is responsible for public transportation in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area counties. [Walsh, 2012, pp. 27 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John OdermattJohn Odermatt [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) activates its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The OEM is responsible for managing the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284, 293] Its personnel arrived at WTC 7, where it has offices, early this morning to prepare for Tripod, a major biological terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15 pdf file]
Staffer Is Told to Open the Operations Center - OEM Commissioner John Odermatt and Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, heard the explosion when Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). As they look out of the window at the burning North Tower, Odermatt debriefs Bylicki and instructs him to open the EOC for a fully staffed operation. Bylicki therefore sets about activating the operations center. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Staffers Call Agencies and Tell Them to Send Their Representatives - EOC personnel start contacting agencies, including the New York Fire and Police Departments and the Department of Health, and instruct them to send their designated representatives to the center. They also call the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which they ask to send at least five federal urban search and rescue teams. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] Meanwhile, Bylicki helps the OEM’s Watch Command handle an “enormous influx” of phone calls, many of which are from senior city officials. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Activation Proceeds without Any Problems - EOC personnel initially struggle to make sense of what has happened at the Twin Towers. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] However, the activation apparently proceeds without any problems. Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM, is instructed by Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, to go up to the 23rd floor of WTC 7 and make sure that personnel are getting the EOC up and running, and the Watch Command is being properly supervised. He goes up to the 23rd floor and first checks the Watch Command. He sees that its supervisor, Mike Lee, has things under control. Then, in the EOC, he sees Michael Berkowitz, a supervisor with the OEM, powering up all the computers and television screens necessary to handle the emergency, and beginning to notify the dozens of agencies that need to send representatives to the center. Berkowitz tells Brown he has the manpower he needs to get the center up and running. “I was very comfortable that OEM was beginning to do what we do in a major emergency,” Brown will later recall. Activating the EOC is something OEM personnel have “drilled for and drilled for and drilled for… and so we were very good at it,” he will comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 pdf file; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Center Is Designed for Managing a Crisis - The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility designed to operate as a stand-alone center from which the city government can operate during a crisis. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] It is one of the most sophisticated facilities of its type in the world. It includes a communications suite, a conference room, a press briefing room, and a large number of staff offices, and has numerous computer-equipped workstations. [Disasters, 3/2003 pdf file] It has enough seating for 68 agencies to operate during an emergency. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] However, it will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted-for planes, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts will indicate that it may be evacuated at an earlier time, possibly even before the second crash at the WTC occurs (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Michael Berkowitz, Mike Lee, Calvin Drayton, Timothy Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency, New York State Emergency Management Office, John Odermatt, Office of Emergency Management, Richard Bylicki, US Department of Health and Human Services, New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Jerome Hauer, director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) from 1996 to 2000, appears on CBS News with Dan Rather. Rather asks him if pre-positioned explosives could have been used to bring down the Twin Towers. Hauer discounts the possibility, saying: “[M]y sense is that just the velocity of the plane and the fact that you have a plane filled with fuel hitting that building that burned, that the velocity of the plane certainly had an impact on the structure itself. And then the fact that it burned and you had that intense heat probably weakened the structure as well. And I think it was simply the planes hitting the buildings and causing the collapse.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] Why Hauer already believes the plane crashes and subsequent fires alone caused the collapses is unclear. In fact, when he testifies before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, he will be asked whether OEM had, before 9/11, conducted “any planning for what would be the response if a commercial or a private plane were to accidentally [hit] either the World Trade Center or some other building in New York City?” He will reply: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire” (see 1996-September 11, 2001). Yet he will not say that the building collapsing had been considered a possibility. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Rather also asks Hauer if the attacks could have been carried out without state sponsorship. Hauer replies: “I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily state-sponsored. It… certainly has the fingerprints of somebody like bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Jerome Hauer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Before 9/11, New York City was scheduled to have a major terrorism training exercise on this day, in a large commercial warehouse on the Hudson River. Called Tripod, it was intended to test how well the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) could administer treatment in the event of a biological-terrorism attack. More than 1,000 Police Academy cadets and Fire Department trainees were recruited to act the parts of terrified civilians afflicted with a range of medical conditions. Various individuals were invited to watch, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the police and fire commissioners, and representatives of the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Presumably many have already arrived for the exercise when the 9/11 attacks occur (see 7:00 a.m. -9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Because Pier 92, where Tripod was due to take place, has been set up ready for the exercise, OEM staff are able to move there and quickly convert it into a large emergency operations center when their original command center (in WTC Building 7) is evacuated and later destroyed during 9/11. Thus, within 31 hours of the attacks, OEM has a functional facility able to manage the search and rescue effort, just four miles north-northwest of the WTC site. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Tripod is the follow-up to a previous training exercise in New York, called RED Ex (see May 11, 2001). [New York Sun, 12/20/2003] Due to the 9/11 attacks, Tripod is called off, but will eventually take place on May 22, 2002. [City of New York, 5/22/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of Emergency Management, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Tripod, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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