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Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are away from their home states at the time of the terrorist attacks, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) at a resort in Big Sky, Montana. The main focuses of the event have included the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. (Janofsky 9/12/2001; DeMers 10/2001 ) The conference began on September 8, and was originally planned to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). (Natural Hazards Observer 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association 8/15/2001)
Emergency Managers Learn of Attacks - At 9:00 a.m., conference attendees are scheduled to participate in a series of sessions on domestic preparedness, which has been a key topic for NEMA over the past three years. (National Emergency Management Association 8/15/2001; DeMers 10/2001 ) According to the New York Times, “One of the day’s main seminar topics was how to prepare for terrorist attacks.” (Janofsky 9/12/2001) However, numerous pagers go off as officials are notified of the events in New York. By the time officials gather around the television in the resort’s bar to see what is happening, the second plane has hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the nature of the emergency is obvious. (Nagy 9/10/2002)
Emergency Managers Respond to Attacks - After the emergency managers at the conference see the coverage of the attacks on television, they “automatically organized themselves into particular groups to focus on transportation issues or to capture information,” Trina Hembree, the executive director of NEMA, will later recall. (Murphy 10/11/2001) The emergency managers, along with federal personnel and private-sector members, go about coordinating their jurisdictions’ responses to the attacks from the resort. Hotel employees add phone lines and equipment so as to enable communication and the tracking of events. A 24-hour emergency operations center is set up, and teams are organized to address specific areas, such as transportation and medical needs. The emergency managers monitor events and stay in contact with their agencies by phone, and also attend briefings at the resort, where they are updated on the national situation. (DeMers 10/2001 )
State of Emergency Declared in Montana - Partly due to concerns over the safety of the emergency management officials at the conference, Montana Governor Judy Martz declares a state of emergency. (Nagy 9/13/2001) Furthermore, roads to the Big Sky resort are closed, and security for the resort is provided by the local sheriff’s department and volunteer fire department, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Montana National Guard, and the FBI.
Arrangements Made to Fly Key Officials Home - The conference’s organizers arrange for military aircraft to fly state emergency management leaders back to their capitals. (Janofsky 9/12/2001; DeMers 10/2001 ) Allbaugh and officials from several states that are directly involved in the attacks are flown home throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), but others at the conference have to drive long distances back to their states.
Emergency Managers 'Not Where They Wanted to Be' - As one news report will later describe, when the attacks occur, “emergency managers were not where they wanted to be.” FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenient timing of the attacks, saying that FEMA officials do not know whether they were timed to catch emergency officials off guard. “That would be speculation,” he says. “But it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” (Nagy 9/13/2001; DeMers 10/2001 ) NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. (Natural Hazards Observer 3/2001) Hundreds of state emergency management officials, including almost all of the US’s state emergency management directors, and most of the senior FEMA staff are in Montana for its annual conference. (Nagy 9/13/2001; DeMers 10/2001 )
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