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Profile: Office of Emergency Management (OEM)
Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was a participant or observer in the following events:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8248, reorganizing the Executive Office of the President. According to the order, “There shall be within the Executive Office of the President the following principal divisions, namely: (1) The White House Office, (2) the Bureau of the Budget, (3) the National Resources Planning Board, (4) the Liaison Office for Personnel Management, (5) the Office of Government Reports, and (6) in the event of a national emergency, or threat of a national emergency, such office for emergency management as the President shall determine.” The order creates the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), a civil defense unit responsible for protecting government functions in the event of a disaster. The President’s Secretary declares that in times of national emergency, “it has always been necessary to establish administrative machinery in addition to that required for normal work of the government.… Although these management facilities need be brought into action only when an emergency or serious threat of emergency exists, they must function in an integral relationship to the regular management arms of the President.” [Executive Order 8248, 9/8/1939; New York Times, 9/10/1939; New York Times, 3/28/1941; New York Times, 4/20/1941]
President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 10186, shifting many responsibilities of the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), which oversees federal emergency planning, to a new civil defense organization, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). The FCDA is placed within the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), an agency established as part of the Executive Office of the President years earlier by President Franklin Roosevelt (see September 8, 1939). The purpose of the FCDA, according to President’s Truman’s order, “shall be to promote and facilitate the civil defense of the United States in cooperation with several States.” [Executive Order 10186, 12/1/1950] The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 will be signed into law weeks later, establishing the FCDA as an independent agency and detailing the organization’s responsibilities (see January 12, 1951)
Jerome Hauer [Source: Public domain]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani establishes the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). This is tasked with coordinating the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [Gotham Gazette, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 83-284] It will also be involved in responding to routine emergencies on a daily basis. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] OEM comprises personnel drawn from various City agencies, including police and fire departments, and emergency medical services. It begins with a staff of just 12, but by 9/11 this will have increased to 72. Its first director is counterterrorism expert Jerome Hauer. [New York Times, 7/27/1999] Richard Sheirer will take over from him in February 2000 and will be OEM director on 9/11. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] OEM is responsible for improving New York’s response to potential major incidents by conducting regular training exercises involving various city agencies, particularly the police and fire departments (see 1996-September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283] According to Steven Kuhr, its deputy director from 1996 to 2000, one of the key focuses of the office is counterterrorism work, “responding to the consequence of a chemical weapons attack, a biological weapons attack, or a high-yield explosive event.” [CNN, 1/16/2002] Furthermore, OEM’s Watch Command is able to constantly monitor all the city’s key communications channels, including all emergency services frequencies, state and national alert systems, and local, national, and international news. It also monitors live video feeds from New York Harbor and the city’s streets. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283, 542] In June 1999, Giuliani will open the OEM’s Command Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7 (see June 8, 1999).
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 8:48 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 ] 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]
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 based around a simulated terrorist attack is held at New York’s new emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The exercise, which lasts 24 hours, is intended to test New York’s response to a biological attack. Many city, state, and federal agency officials, including officials from the Department of Defense, participate. The exercise takes place as the new emergency command center is being unveiled, with a small group of reporters being escorted through it today (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999; New York Daily News, 6/8/1999; New York Times, 6/8/1999]
Giuliani’s emergency command center. [Source: CNN]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/2001] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [CNN, 6/7/1999; London Times, 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 233] The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” [Time, 12/22/2001] Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 346-347] Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times, 12/20/2001]
A training exercise is held in New York based around the scenario of a biological warfare agent being released, presumably by terrorists, at a sporting event. During the tabletop exercise, which is attended by top city officials, the police commissioner decides he wants to shut down Manhattan in response to the simulated crisis. Although other exercise participants are skeptical about his decision, they discuss how the shutdown could be achieved. Their discussion leads to an informal understanding between them of how authorities could stop traffic on the city’s bridges and through the city’s tunnels if it was ever necessary to do so. The plan they come up with is that, initially, all traffic would be one-way out of the city and then, subsequently, routes would be closed. This plan will actually be implemented on September 11, 2001, in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center that day. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 29] Today’s exercise is presumably conducted by Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management, which was created in 1996 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]
Mayor Rudy Giuliani updates a directive that is intended to eliminate conflict between agencies when they respond to an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, in New York. [City of New York, 7/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 284-285] Since at least the late 1970s, New York’s mayors have recognized that the tense relations between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the New York Fire Department (FDNY) are a potentially serious problem, and have tried, unsuccessfully, to rectify the situation. [Governing, 9/2005] In a new attempt to resolve the problem, Giuliani updates a directive titled “Direction and Control of Emergencies in the City of New York.” This document states that its purpose is to eliminate “potential conflict among responding agencies which may have areas of overlapping expertise and responsibility.”
Specified Agency Would Be the 'Incident Commander' for an Emergency - To achieve this, the directive designates which agency would serve as the “incident commander” for different types of emergencies. The incident commander would be “responsible for the management of the city’s response to the emergency.” Meanwhile, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which Giuliani created in 1996 (see 1996), would “coordinate the participation of all city agencies in resolving the event,” and “assist the incident commander in his/her efforts in the development and implementation of the strategy for resolving the event.”
Fire or Police Department Would Be in Command for a Terrorist Attack - The document states that in the event of an “air crash” or a “structural collapse,” the FDNY would be the incident commander. In the event of a terrorist attack, the incident commander would be either the NYPD or the FDNY, depending on the type of terrorist attack that occurs (for example, whether it is an attack involving weapons of mass destruction or one in which just conventional weapons are used). However, the directive notes, the nature of terrorist attacks “is such that the incident command will shift as the event evolves.” Therefore, it continues, “Any conflicts regarding the issue of command at these incidents will be resolved by OEM.” [City of New York, 7/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 284-285]
Directive Is Followed 'to Some Degree' on September 11 - The directive will be followed with limited success when the terrorist attacks occur on September 11. “To some degree, the mayor’s directive for incident command was followed on 9/11,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. The report will continue, “It was clear that the lead response agency was the FDNY and that the other responding local, federal, bistate, and state agencies acted in a supporting role.” The report will note, however, that “the response operations lacked the kind of integrated communications and unified command contemplated in the directive.” “These problems existed both within and among individual responding agencies,” it will add. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 319]
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) purchases crisis management computer software that it plans to launch for use on September 17, and that will significantly help the city’s response to the 9/11 attacks. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001] The OEM is intended to improve New York’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks, and play a key role in managing the city’s overall response to an incident. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] The software it buys, called E Team, is an emergency and event management product created by E Team Inc., a small company based in Canoga Park, California. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] John Hughes, a vice president of E Team Inc., in fact used to be the deputy director of the New York City OEM. E Team was originally created for use by the military in battlefield coordination, but the software can now be used by public agencies and private companies, to “prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies of all types.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2000; California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001] It enables officials to coordinate thousands of workers and hundreds of agencies. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001] The OEM plans to install the software on special server computers in its Emergency Operations Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7, and to launch the E Team system on September 17. [Wired News, 11/2/2001; Council of the City of New York, 8/2002, pp. 22 ] But as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, the system will instead go into use on September 14, at OEM’s temporary command center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River (see September 14, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] Every government organization supporting the OEM command center after 9/11 will use E Team to coordinate its rescue and recovery efforts with the OEM. [California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001] A report later published by New York City Council’s Select Committee on Technology in Government will say it is ironic that the OEM decides to buy the E Team software in the month before the terrorist attacks in New York take place. The report will comment that the OEM buys the software “in order to better manage precisely the emergency situations that the city faced after 9/11.” [Council of the City of New York, 8/2002, pp. 22 ]
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 ; Contingency Planning and Management, 5/2004 ] 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 ]
New York City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) set up at Pier 92 on the Hudson River following the 9/11 attacks. [Source: ArcNews]At Pier 92 on the Hudson River, preparations are underway for a training exercise due to take place there the following day. The exercise, called Tripod, which had been scheduled months earlier, is intended to test how well New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) can administer treatment in response to a biological-terrorism attack (see September 12, 2001). [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355] Pier 92, located just over four miles north-northwest of the World Trade Center, has been set up as a model distribution station where the simulated victims will be treated. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15 and 20] Ken Longert, the owner of a theatrical lighting business, arrives at the pier at 7:00 a.m. to help get the place ready for the exercise. He will later recall, “Two or three hundred cadets [presumably with the New York police and fire departments] were there, learning the proper procedures in case some kind of disaster hit New York.” Longert will recall that, seconds after the second WTC tower is hit at 9:03, “all the people from OEM disappeared” from the pier. [DiMarco, 2007, pp. 457-458] After OEM’s original command center is destroyed when WTC 7—where it is located—collapses (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Pier 92 will be selected as the location for the substitute command center. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Members of OEM staff have also arrived early this morning at the OEM offices in WTC 7 to prepare for the exercise (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15]
John Odermatt [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for coordinating the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] Its offices are in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. Today is reportedly “going to be a busy day at the OEM,” as staff members have come to work early to prepare for Tripod, a major biological-terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). Their building shakes when the North Tower is hit at 8:46 a.m. OEM Commissioner John Odermatt initially believes a freak accident has occurred involving a ground-to-air missile, but soon after, OEM is informed that a plane hit the North Tower. Immediately, OEM staff members begin to activate their emergency command center, located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 (see June 8, 1999). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15] They call agencies such as the New York fire and police departments, and the Department of Health, and direct them to send their designated representatives to the OEM. They also call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and request at least five federal Urban Search and Rescue Teams. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] According to the 9/11 Commission, OEM’s command center will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted for planes (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). By that time, none of the outside agency liaisons will have arrived. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts indicate the command center may be evacuated earlier, possibly even before the second tower is hit (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Richard Sheirer [Source: Publicity photo]Richard Sheirer is in a meeting at New York City Hall when he is informed by telephone of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Sheirer is the director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which was set up in 1996 to coordinate the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorism (see 1996). It has an emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, specially intended for coordinating the response to catastrophes such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Yet instead of going to this, Sheirer heads to the North Tower, and arrives at the fire command post set up in its lobby before the second crash at 9:03 a.m. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] John Odermatt, Sheirer’s top deputy, also goes to the North Tower and says that, after the first plane hit, he leaves only two staffers at the command center. John Farmer, who heads the 9/11 Commission unit that assesses the city response to the attacks, will find it “strange that Sheirer, four OEM deputies, and a field responder went straight to the North Tower… rather than to the nearby emergency command center.” Journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will conclude, “[T]he command center was out of business from the outset.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31 and 34] Sheirer stays at the North Tower lobby until soon after 9:30 a.m., when Mayor Giuliani requests he joins him at the temporary command post at 75 Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] John Farmer will later complain, “We [the 9/11 Commission] tried to get a sense of what Sheirer was really doing. We tried to figure it out from the videos. We couldn’t tell. Everybody from OEM was with him, virtually the whole chain of command. Some of them should have been at the command center.” Fire Captain Kevin Culley, who works as a field responder at OEM, is later asked why most of the OEM’s top brass were with him at the scene of the incident. He says, “I don’t know what they were doing. It was Sheirer’s decision to go there on his own. The command center would normally be the focus of a major event and that would be where I would expect the director to be.” When the 9/11 Commission later investigates OEM’s shortcomings on 9/11, “No rationale for Sheirer’s prolonged lobby stay, no information conveyed to commanders, and no steps to coordinate the response” will be discovered. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31-32 and 34]
After the first World Trade Center tower is hit, Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel, head up to the emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] The center, opened in 1999, is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999] However, Hess and Jennings find no one there. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110; BBC, 7/6/2008]
Center Is Empty; Jennings Warned to Leave - Jennings will describe that, when he arrives at the emergency command center, “To my amazement, nobody’s there.” He says: “I saw coffee that was still hot, that was still smoldering. They had screens all over the place, but the screens were blank. So I didn’t know what was going on.” He then phones several individuals, including one of his superiors. When Jennings says where he is, the superior responds: “Get out of there. Get out of there now.” Hess then runs back into the center, after having found the stairwell, and says: “We’re the only ones up here. We gotta get out of here.” [Dylan Avery, 2007; BBC, 7/6/2008]
9/11 Commission Claims Command Center Not Evacuated until Later - Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, “After the South Tower was hit [at 9:03], OEM senior leadership decided to remain in its ‘bunker’ and continue conducting operations, even though all civilians had been evacuated from 7 WTC.” The Commission will claim the emergency command center is not evacuated until 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] But according to the London Independent, Hess and Jennings arrive there by the time the South Tower is hit, which suggests the center is evacuated earlier than officially claimed. [Independent, 9/13/2001] Jennings himself will recall, “I had to be inside on the 23rd floor when the second plane hit.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] The possibility that the emergency command center is evacuated earlier than the 9/11 Commission claims is partly confirmed by OEM Commissioner John Odermatt, who later says that after the first plane hit the WTC, he left only two staffers there (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34] Jennings and Hess subsequently head down the stairs, but will become trapped in WTC 7, and have to be rescued by firefighters (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]
Mike Dabney. [Source: FEMA]Personnel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region II office at 26 Federal Plaza in New York are unable to communicate with the city’s emergency command center in World Trade Center Building 7 and so Richard Ohlsen, one of the office’s employees, is sent to the WTC site to liaise with officials there. Personnel in the FEMA office felt their building shake when the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were initially unclear about what had happened. They were able, however, to see the second crash, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), through the windows. Apparently after that crash occurs, “communications almost instantly became a problem and compromised the ability of the Regional Operations Center [i.e. the office at 26 Federal Plaza] to operate,” Ohlsen will later recall. In particular, personnel there are unable to communicate with the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which has its emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. Mike Dabney, the senior FEMA manager in the office, therefore instructs Ohlsen to go to WTC 7, which is within walking distance, and act as an on-site liaison with the OEM there. However, Ohlsen’s departure is delayed because his colleagues are unable to find a working radio or a satellite phone he can take with him. He consequently only heads out at around 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower of the WTC collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will change his plans following the collapse and, instead of heading to WTC 7, go to the command post at the headquarters of the New York Police Department (see After 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ; Graff, 2017, pp. 343-344]
The second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) causes internal alarms to go off in WTC Building 7, located just a few hundred feet away from the Twin Towers. The alarms warn there is no water pressure and that the building’s emergency power generator has been activated. Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff, based in Building 7, immediately request air security over New York. They are told that federal support is on its way, but the Federal Aviation Administration instructs them to use NYPD and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. They are also warned that the Kennedy Airport control tower is reporting an unaccounted for plane heading towards New York. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will claim that this plane is Flight 93, which later crashes in Pennsylvania. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, Flight 93 is still flying west at this time, and only reverses course and heads towards Washington at around 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to at least one person at the scene, WTC 7 is evacuated around this time due to the reports of this incoming third plane (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jems And FireRescue, 3/2002, pp. 68 ]
Thomas Von Essen. [Source: Publicity photo]The headquarters of New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is on the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7, is evacuated at approximately 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission. The headquarters was opened in 1999 and was specifically intended to coordinate the city’s response to disasters such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). A senior OEM official orders the evacuation after being told by a Secret Service agent that additional commercial planes are unaccounted for (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284 and 305] OEM personnel do not initially respond to the evacuation order with a sense of urgency. According to a 2003 report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, “They calmly collected personal belongings and began removing OEM records, but they were urged to abandon everything and leave the building quickly.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, there are contradictory accounts of when the OEM command center is evacuated. The National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST) claims the evacuation happens slightly later than stated by the 9/11 Commission, at “approximately 9:44 a.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] Other accounts suggest it may have happened before 9:03, when the second attack occurred (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen will arrive at WTC 7 shortly before the collapse of the South Tower, looking for Mayor Giuliani. Learning that the OEM headquarters has been evacuated, he later claims that he thinks, “How ridiculous. We’ve got a thirteen-million-dollar command center and we can’t even use it.” [Essen, 2002, pp. 26] He says in frustration, “How can we be evacuating OEM? We really need it now.” He will later tell an interviewer that he’d headed for the OEM headquarters because, “I thought that was where we should all be because that’s what [it] was built for.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 230] All civilians were evacuated from WTC 7 earlier on, around the time the second WTC tower was hit (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The OEM command bus. [Source: New York City Office of Emergency Management]Personnel from New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) use the OEM command bus as their command post after their command center in World Trade Center Building 7 has been evacuated. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] The OEM command center, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, is intended to coordinate the city’s response to emergencies, including terrorist attacks. [New York Times, 6/8/1999] However, it was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest the evacuation occurs at an earlier or later time (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34] OEM personnel therefore now have to operate from the their command bus. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] The bus, known as the Interagency Command Center (ICC), is equipped with computers, a state-of-the-art communications system, and on-board electrical generation. It also has its own conference room. [Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; Power, 2004, pp. 172] It can be deployed to the location of a major emergency, to serve as an on-scene command post for coordinating interagency operations and communications. [City of New York, 2001, pp. 8 ] The OEM’s emergency plans and vital records are kept in WTC 7, and, due to the evacuation of the command center, are now inaccessible. Fortunately, after they move to the ICC, OEM personnel are able to implement their emergency action plans from memory and by utilizing their combined knowledge. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20] After the Twin Towers collapse, the ICC will move to a firehouse on Houston Street, to provide support to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his entourage, who have set up a temporary headquarters at that location (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004]
According to Captain Michael Currid, the sergeant at arms for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, some time after the collapse of the North Tower, he sees four or five fire companies trying to extinguish fires in Building 7 of the WTC. Someone from the city’s Office of Emergency Management tells him that WTC 7 is in serious danger of collapse. Currid says, “The consensus was that it was basically a lost cause and we should not lose anyone else trying to save it.” Along with some others, he goes inside WTC 7 and yells up the stairwells to the fire fighters, “Drop everything and get out!” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 175-176] However, other accounts contradict this, claiming that no attempt is made to fight the fires in WTC 7 (see (11:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). One report later claims, “Given the limited water supply and the first strategic priority, which was to search for survivors in the rubble, FDNY did not fight the fires [in WTC 7].” [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] And a 2002 government report says, “the firefighters made the decision fairly early on not to attempt to fight the fires, due in part to the damage to WTC 7 from the collapsing towers.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-21] Building 7 eventually collapses late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
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]
E Team crisis management software. [Source: Police Magazine]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is much aided in its recovery efforts at Ground Zero when it starts using a little-known piece of emergency management software, which it only purchased last month and that was originally going to be launched on September 17. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001] The software, called E Team, helps organizations to “prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies of all types.” [California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001] It was created by E Team Inc., a company based in Canoga Park, California. [e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] The New York City OEM only bought E Team in August (see August 2001). It installed the software on computers in its Emergency Operations Center in World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) and intended to launch the system on September 17. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001]
Engineers Put Together New System to Manage Recovery Operation - The OEM was in contact with E Team Inc. executives within a few hours of the attacks on the WTC on September 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] E Team Inc. employees reportedly suspected in advance that WTC 7—which housed the computers on which their software was installed—would collapse. Matt Walton, the company’s CEO, will later recall: “We knew that tower number 7 was probably not going to make it. We contacted the [New York City] mayor’s office and told them we would put up the New York databases on our own servers.” [Wired News, 11/2/2001] That night, a group of E Team Inc. engineers gathered at the company’s headquarters in Canoga Park, and put together a system on the company’s servers using data that the New York City OEM had sent to the company to prepare for the launch of the E Team system on September 17. By September 12, the engineers had the system ready for use. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001]
System Goes into Operation at New Command Center - For the first couple of days after 9/11, the OEM had to coordinate its recovery efforts on paper or using e-mail, because its emergency management computer systems were destroyed when WTC 7 collapsed on the afternoon of September 11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). An OEM spokesman will comment, “It became apparent that we needed very sophisticated technology to effectively handle the crisis.” [Wired News, 11/2/2001] Then, on September 14, the E Team system goes into operation at the OEM’s temporary command center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River, where several server computers have been set up to run the software and 200 workstations are connected to the system. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] Troy Armstrong and John Hughes, two senior E Team Inc. employees who are distinguished emergency management professionals, are installed at the temporary command center. They are supplemented with three additional E Team Inc. employees.
System Plays Key Role in Recovery Operation - The main initial uses of E Team in response to the 9/11 attacks are resource management and situation reporting, but over time the system will also be used for incident reporting, asset tracking, action planning, and logistics. [California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001] E Team tracks everything related to the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. It enables emergency responders to monitor the location of fires, personnel, supplies, and trucks. It also handles resource requests. [Wired News, 11/2/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] It makes the recovery operation “much more efficient,” according to Lieutenant Colonel John Flanagan of the New York Army National Guard. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001] In total, more than 1,700 individuals from over 200 organizations will use the E Team system at the height of the rescue and recovery efforts. [Council of the City of New York, 8/2002, pp. 22 ]
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