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Profile: American Red Cross
American Red Cross was a participant or observer in the following events:
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) conducts a training exercise called Operation ICE, which is designed to prepare emergency response workers for the possibility of a terrorist attack and includes a simulated chemical attack near the World Trade Center. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/9/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Operation ICE is the largest terrorism response exercise ever conducted by the city. Its aim, according to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is “to see what would happen if in fact there was a chemical attack and to see how police, fire, EMS [emergency medical services], hospitals, the FBI… would all respond.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Volunteers Go to Hospitals with the Symptoms of Chemical Exposure - Operation ICE incorporates a series of field and tabletop exercises. It consists of three interconnected training events, called MEDEX, FIELDEX, and INFRAEX. MEDEX, apparently the first event to take place, is held on November 8. Forty-one city hospitals are involved in it. The aim is for the emergency workers who participate to learn how to deal with and treat “walk-in, self-referred” patients who arrive at emergency rooms minutes or hours after they have been exposed to a chemical agent. Volunteers, playing the victims, visit the hospitals, complaining about various symptoms. Hospital personnel have to determine the type of chemical exposure that matches the symptoms and decide how to treat the victims. [New York Times, 11/9/1997; Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Field Exercise Is Held near the WTC - FIELDEX, which is the centerpiece of Operation ICE, takes place a day later, on November 9. This is an elaborate field training exercise involving a simulated chemical attack at a large public gathering. It is directed by Jerome Hauer, head of the OEM, and more than 600 emergency response workers take part. They belong to agencies including the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, the FBI, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Departments of Defense, Environmental Protection, Health, and Transportation. [City of New York, 11/9/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is held less than a mile away from the WTC, on Greenwich Street, between Hubert and North Moore Streets. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] It takes place “eerily in the shadow of the Twin Towers,” Giuliani will later comment. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 63]
Islamic Terrorists Release a Lethal Gas in the Simulation - The scenario for the exercise involves a rally held by a controversial political group. This is “a greed-is-good kind of group,” Giuliani will say. A speaker at the rally explains the group’s philosophy, which gets his listeners angry, and two or three of them consequently attack the group. They release VX, a deadly nerve gas, killing 21 people and injuring at least 27. The mock attackers are Islamic terrorists, according to Giuliani. Red Cross volunteers and police cadets pretend to be victims of the attack, while several mannequins represent people who have been killed. FIELDEX lasts for four hours. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
Real Bomb Goes Off before the Exercise Starts - Participating emergency response workers are unaware of the details of the scenario before the exercise begins. “[W]e know to be prepared, that it is going to happen, but haven’t been given any particulars,” one law enforcement official comments. [New York Times, 11/9/1997] Local residents reportedly approve of the exercise, despite the disruption it causes. One woman remarks that she feels it “needs to be done” because, she says, “Living downtown, we are a direct target for this kind of threat, with the World Trade Center and everything.” [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997] Ironically, two hours before the exercise commences, a real but crude bomb explodes in front of an office building a few blocks away from where the exercise is held. No advance warning is given but, fortunately, no one is injured. No one will take responsibility for the bombing. [New York Times, 11/10/1997]
Exercise Is Mostly Funded by the Defense Department - The INFRAEX segment of Operation ICE consists of a workshop that considers how the simulated attack would affect the city’s infrastructure, and how any adverse effects could be minimized and corrected. The date when this part of the exercise is held is unstated. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998] Operation ICE is the culmination of a yearlong disaster preparedness project. [City of New York, 11/9/1997] Most of the funding for it has come from a grant from the Department of Defense. [New York Daily News, 11/10/1997; New York Times, 11/10/1997] The exercise is intended to be a model for cities throughout the US. [Fire Engineering, 3/1998]
Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation, Jerome Hauer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Defense, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Operation ICE, New York City Fire Department, American Red Cross, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City Police Department
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A training exercise is held at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. Mark Edelman, chief external relations officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, will later say the Greater New York chapter has been preparing for the possibility of a biological terrorist attack since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). And today—“the very Saturday before September 11”—there is “a bioterror drill at La Guardia Airport,” he will add. Details of what the exercise involves are unstated. Whether any agencies other than the Red Cross participate in the exercise is also unstated. [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] La Guardia Airport is located eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York, and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, which is based around a simulated plane crash (see September 8, 2001). [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002]
The Coast Guard cutter ‘Joshua Appleby.’ [Source: Harry Craft III / US Coast Guard]The US Coast Guard is running a “mass casualty exercise” based around the scenario of an explosion, possibly caused by terrorists, on a cruise ship in Tampa Bay, Florida, which is about 50 miles north of Sarasota, where President Bush is visiting an elementary school this morning. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 ; New York Times, 1/13/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008] The exercise is being conducted by the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Tampa, in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Lines, Hillsborough County, and the City of Tampa. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 ] The Tampa Bay chapter of the Red Cross and the local fire department are also involved, and more than 100 volunteers are participating. [Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008; Merrill, 2011, pp. 253]
Exercise Involves 'Possibly Terrorist-Related' Explosion on Ship - The exercise is based on the scenario of an explosion occurring in the engine room of a cruise ship that has 3,500 people on board, just after the ship has passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into Tampa Bay. The explosion is “possibly terrorist-related,” according to Steve McGuire, a Red Cross volunteer who is participating in the exercise. The ship is anchored just south of MacDill Air Force Base, and then a boat, the Coast Guard cutter Joshua Appleby, brings out firefighters and equipment to tackle the fire. Helicopters are used to evacuate the mock casualties from the ship. The casualties are taken away for simulated triage and transportation to area hospitals. The exercise is “a very elaborate drill,” according to McGuire. [Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council HazMatters, 10/2001 ; Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008]
Exercise Possibly Continues until 10:00 a.m. - As the exercise is about to begin, Janet McGuire, the public affairs and marketing director with the Tampa Bay chapter of the Red Cross, is called by her husband, Bernard McGuire, who tells her a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. Minutes later, he calls again and tells his wife that a second plane has hit the WTC. She immediately calls the director at her agency’s disaster operations center and requests that the exercise be canceled. Author Will Merrill will later comment, “People might think that Tampa was also under attack if they suddenly saw fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars congregating downtown” because of the exercise. [Tampa Bay Times, 9/13/2006; Merrill, 2011, pp. 253] However, according to Steve McGuire, the exercise continues until “about 9:30 or 10 a.m.” [Local Red Cross News, 9/11/2008] If correct, this would mean it likely continues until after Bush is driven away from the elementary school in Sarasota, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and is possibly still taking place when Bush takes off from the Sarasota airport on Air Force One, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Tom Leighton. [Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology]Numerous government websites, which are a source of critical information, go offline, allegedly due in part to malicious attacks by computer hackers. [Akamai, 9/11/2015; Business Times, 9/24/2016] Many people seeking details about the terrorist attacks are turning to the Internet to find out what is happening, since it can quickly provide them with the information they want. However, numerous key websites, including government websites and news websites, go offline. [Washington Post, 9/11/2013; Akamai, 9/9/2014; Jewish Review of Books, 12/2014] The websites of the New York Times, CNN, and NBC News, for example, are unavailable between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. [Network World, 9/17/2001] Other websites that could provide valuable information that are affected include the websites of the FBI, the Red Cross, and American Airlines. [Raskin, 2013, pp. 209-210; Jewish Review of Books, 12/2014]
'Bad Actors' Launch Attacks on Key Websites - There are two reasons for the websites going down, according to Tom Leighton, chief scientist at the high-tech firm Akamai. One is simply that the increase in traffic caused by large numbers of people turning to the Internet for information is overloading them. [Akamai, 9/9/2014; Business Times, 9/24/2016] The website of the Washington Post, for example, is receiving 10 times its usual number of page views. [Network World, 9/17/2001] The other reason is that “bad actors” are coming out and committing cyberattacks. [Forbes, 3/25/2019] “The crazies came out and… attacked key websites to make it… even more likely that they would go down,” Leighton will later recall. Due to these cyberattacks, he will say, “a lot of government websites went down.” [Akamai, 9/9/2014]
FBI Website Goes Down - Among others, the website of the FBI goes offline. This is due to an increase in traffic, which may have been caused by deliberate attacks. The FBI “suspected at least some of [the extra traffic] was malicious—opportunistic hackers launching denial of service attacks and causing other mischief,” the Washington Post will report. [Washington Post, 9/11/2013] (A “distributed denial of service” attack involves thousands of compromised computers being used to target a website or server at the same time, thereby causing it to overload and become unavailable. [Business Times, 9/24/2016] )
Attacks Make It Harder to Get Information Out - Whether the identities of those launching the suspected cyberattacks will subsequently be determined, and whether the cyberattacks are connected to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is unstated. Leighton will only comment that he is unaware whether the cyberattacks were coordinated. [Akamai, 9/9/2014] All the same, a consequence of them is that “it became even harder to get the news [about the terrorist attacks] out,” Leighton will note. [Forbes, 3/25/2019] In addition to the problem of important websites going offline, people in New York and Washington, DC, experience communication problems today due to difficulties making phone calls, particularly cell phone calls (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/20/2001; SatNews, 10/19/2001; Verton, 2003, pp. 148-149]
Cell blocks 1A and 2A, where the infamous Abu Ghraib abuses take place. [Source: CBC]The US military replies to the Red Cross’ November 6 letter (see November 6, 2003), claiming that the prisoners being held in cell bocks 1A and 2A of Abu Ghraib are “security detainees” who are not entitled to “full GC protection as recognized in GCIV/5 [Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention].” The 3-page letter adds that “such protection will be afforded as soon as the security situation in Iraq allows it.” Article 5 allows an occupying power to exempt captives from the protection of the Conventions if they can be shown to be a continuing threat to the occupying force. However according to critics of the administration’s judgment, the provision is supposed to be applied on a case-by-case basis and is not meant to include people who have valuable intelligence. [US Department of the Army, 12/24/2003; New York Times, 5/22/2004] The letter also says that the Red Cross should schedule its visits to the cell bocks 1A and 2A ahead of time instead of showing up unannounced. The response letter—written by Army lawyers in Washington but signed by Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski in Baghdad—claims that such visits could interrupt interrogations. [New York Times, 5/19/2004] In fact, many of the detainees in those cell blocks are not suspected to be security threats.
The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure in Louisiana’s House of Representatives votes against Senate Bill 598, which would have provided immunity from civil liability for private drivers who evacuate carless hurricane evacuees. Voting against the measure are Representatives Shirley Bowler, (R-Harahan), and Austin Badon Jr., (D-New Orleans). The measure, already passed in the Senate with a 33-0 vote, was introduced by Senator Francis Heitmeier (D-Algiers) at the request of the New Orleans emergency preparedness office, as well as a coalition of government officials, the Red Cross, and community groups seeking to implement “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” a program designed to increase evacuation of New Orlean’s poor population (see (Spring 2004)). House members who rejected the bill were reportedly concerned that a drunken driver giving a ride to an evacuee could evade responsibility if there was an accident. Representative Badon also argued that immunity was not necessary since a driver’s insurance policy would provide indemnity in the case of an accident. [Times-Picayune, 6/8/2004; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development begins distributing one million evacuation maps to the residents of New Orleans. “We learned the lessons from the Hurricane Ivan evacuation (see September 14, 2004), and we put those lessons to use in developing a new plan,” DOTD Secretary Johnny B. Bradberry says. “This document is proof that government can and does listen to the concerns of citizens.” The initial printing of the maps was paid for by the American Red Cross and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. [Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 6/17/2005]
As part of the program, “Preparing for the Big One,” aimed at ensuring that none of New Orleans residents are left behind during a mandatory hurricane evacuation, the city contracts Total Community Action, a community faith-based network, to produce 70,000 30-minute DVDs. The DVD is meant to serve as a guide for the city’s poorest residents, many of whom do not own cars and live in the city’s lowest, most flood-prone, areas. At one point during the video, Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, warns, “Don’t wait for the city, don’t wait for the state, don’t wait for the Red Cross.” He tells the viewers, “It’s your personal responsibility” to escape before a hurricane. Other guests appearing on the video—including Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas—reiterate the same message. “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” Wilkins says. “If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.… But we don’t have the transportation.” The Los Angeles Times says that one of the video’s central message is that those without cars would not be able to rely on the city to evacuate them and that they would need to devise their own evacuation strategies. The video suggests that residents without cars should prearrange rides with other residents who do have cars. “Everybody needs to have their own plans,” New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin says on the video. “Check with your neighbors, check with your relatives.” Nagin also warns that public schools are no longer considered safe shelters. Other parts of the program provide advice on how to clear storm drains, pack an evacuation kit and medical supplies, and keep pets safe. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]
After noting that the Red Cross has predicted that as many as 100,000 people could die if a hurricane would hit New Orleans, ABC reporter Kate Snow asks Louisiana Governor Blanco how the evacuation is proceeding. Blanco responds: “We started evacuations early yesterday. Started encouraging people to voluntarily evacuate from the low-lying areas surrounding the Orleans area. And today we’re focusing on the final people who are still in the city, encouraging them to leave. There will be all sorts of modes of transportation available to those who have no transportation. City buses will be available. Other people are bringing buses in. We also, I believe are lining up trains to move as many people out as possible.”
[ABC, 8/28/2005] Note that Amtrak’s last train reportedly left Saturday evening around 8:30 pm (see 8:30 pm August 27, 2005).
By this evening, 3,000 residents have sought refuge in 45 emergency shelters throughout Louisiana, according to Victor Howell of the Louisiana Capital Area Red Cross. The Red Cross is prepared to deploy 750 employees and volunteers from Louisiana, plus an additional 2,000 others from around the country. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005 Sources: Victor Howell] By early morning tomorrow, over 11,400 evacuees will be sheltered in more than 70 Red Cross facilities throughout the state. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] A Louisiana Department of Social Services representative will report that an estimated 27,639 evacuees are in state and Red Cross shelters. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]
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