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Profile: New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO)
New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The New York State Insurance Disaster Coalition, which comprises a number of public and private organizations, holds two training exercises based around the scenario of a hurricane hitting the state, and these will improve the response of insurance companies and other coalition members to the 9/11 attacks just weeks later. The Disaster Coalition was recently set up by the State of New York, modeled on the “Partners in Recovery” program established in Florida after Hurricane Andrew struck the state in 1992. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) developed a national program called State Disaster Coalitions that would be responsible for creating long-term partnerships between public and private sector leaders so as to enhance cooperation, communication, and the use of resources after a catastrophic event. New York then became the first state in the US to develop the IBHS State Disaster Coalition model. Its Disaster Coalition includes the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the New York Department of Insurance, the New York Insurance Association, and several insurance companies. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2002; Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, 2003, pp. 449] The Disaster Coalition has developed the “New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan,” which enables the creation of a new public-private disaster planning team in order to expedite the state’s response to catastrophes and facilitate the recovery of those who have insured losses. [Gregory V. Serio, 5/10/2001]
Exercises Consider a Hurricane Striking the State - Members of the Disaster Coalition now participate in two tabletop exercises and technology tests, to assess the program’s readiness and the thoroughness of the program’s strategy. The exercises, which are led by the SEMO, are based around the scenario of a major hurricane hitting Long Island. Participants will subsequently consider both exercises to have been successful. It will be determined that the Disaster Coalition is ready to deal with an emergency, and the necessary infrastructure is in place to implement an effective and unified public-private response to a major catastrophic event in the state.
Coalition's Response Plan Will Be Activated on 9/11 - The Disaster Coalition will play a significant role a few weeks later, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Its representatives will assemble at the Insurance Emergency Operations Center in Albany, where they will work as part of a team on behalf of the victims of the attacks. The New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan will be activated within two hours of the collapses of the Twin Towers. Despite the unprecedented challenge the attacks present, the financial needs of most victims who file insurance claims will be met. Furthermore, the number of complaints will be unusually low for such a huge catastrophe. Despite nearly 19,000 insurance claims being made, only 20 complaints will be filed.
Plan Will Be Found to Have Improved the Response to the 9/11 Attacks - Disaster Coalition members and insurance catastrophe team leaders will meet two months after the attacks to assess how well their plan functioned throughout the crisis. At the gathering, one insurance company representative will comment that colleagues in his home office had known New York could handle the unprecedented events because the state “had a Disaster Coalition capable of responding in the best way possible under catastrophic conditions.” Commenting on the success of the program, Harvey Ryland, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, will write: “It’s hard to think that things could have been worse on September 11, but the lessons learned from [Hurricane] Andrew led the way so that victims could be helped faster and recovery could take place more quickly, through public and private partnership.” [George E. Pataki and Gregory V. Serio, 12/31/2001, pp. 12 ; Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2002]
John 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 ]
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 ; 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 ; 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 ] 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: Mike Lee, Federal Emergency Management Agency, John Odermatt, Michael Berkowitz, Calvin Drayton, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Fire Department, New York State Emergency Management Office, Timothy Brown, Richard Bylicki, New York City Police Department
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Timothy Brown. [Source: Valorous Media, Inc.]Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), tries calling the White House and other agencies in Washington, DC, about getting fighter jets to protect New York, but is unable to reach them. [Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ; TEDx Talks, 10/7/2015] Brown headed to the Fire Department’s command post in the lobby of the North Tower after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). After arriving there, he discussed the need to have fighters over New York with senior officials. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Firefighter Heard about an Additional Suspicious Aircraft - After the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), personnel in the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center contacted the FAA and requested “air security” over New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 ] Brown went to the lobby of the South Tower to help open a command post. [Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ; TEDx Talks, 10/7/2015] While there, he will later recall, he heard over his radio that another suspicious aircraft was heading toward New York and that “we should be prepared to get hit again” (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Firefighter Asks to Be Connected to the White House - At some point, he decides to try and call Washington, to make sure that New York will be getting air cover. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] He goes to the phones in the southeast corner of the South Tower’s lobby and tries to find one that works. Eventually he finds one that has a dial tone. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ] He dials zero and then talks to the operator. [TEDx Talks, 10/7/2015] He tells her New York is under terrorist attack and he needs to talk to the White House to make sure the city has air cover.
Operator Cannot Reach Agencies in Washington - The operator tries hard to reach the White House. “She tried many different ways to get me through, many different offices in the White House,” Brown will recall. However, she is unable to get through, since the phones in Washington are overwhelmed. “Apparently [operators] had been getting a volume of phone calls similar to mine, of people trying to get through to federal agencies, trying to get help,” Brown will comment. [Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ] Brown then learns from the operator about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). After failing to reach the White House, he says to her, “Well then get me the Pentagon” and she replies that the Pentagon has been attacked. “That’s the first time we knew it, knew that it was also under attack,” he will recall. [TEDx Talks, 10/7/2015] He also asks the operator to try and connect him to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has its headquarters in Washington, but she is unable to reach it.
Firefighter Talks to the State Emergency Management Office - Finally, she is able to connect him to the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) in Albany. [Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ] He asks the person there for assistance and is told the office already knows about the problem and is in the process of getting help from the military. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] They say fighters will be coming to protect New York as fast as they possibly can. [TEDx Talks, 10/7/2015] Brown feels “pretty comfortable” with this response, he will say. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] After the call ends, he returns to the command post. [Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ] Fighters arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] However, numerous witnesses on the ground there will recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
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