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Context of 'September 14, 2001: Office of Emergency Management Opens a New Operations Center by the Hudson River'

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Thomas Von Essen.Thomas Von Essen. [Source: Publicity photo]The Office of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in World Trade Center Building 7 is evacuated in response to a report that more commercial planes are unaccounted for. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 that is intended to serve as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism or other kind of crisis. [CNN, 6/7/1999; City of New York, 2/18/2001] Office of Emergency Management (OEM) officials activated it shortly after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the WTC (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293]
Staffers Discussed Evacuation after the First Crash - Soon after the crash occurred, officials in the EOC “began discussing with OEM staff whether or not they should evacuate the building,” according to a report by Tricia Wachtendorf of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] Richard Rotanz, deputy director of the OEM, and some other officials in the EOC conducted a “threat analysis” after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002]
Staffers Want to Stay in the Operations Center - Personnel are reluctant to leave the EOC because in it they have “a tremendous amount of resources at their fingertips” and they are “best able to handle an emergency of this scale,” Wachtendorf will later write. Furthermore, there is no clear procedure to move to or establish an alternative operations center if it is abandoned. “I couldn’t think of where we would go if we left the EOC because at that time we didn’t have a backup facility,” one official will recall. There is, in fact, “no formalized evacuation plan for the EOC,” according to Wachtendorf. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77-79]
OEM Deputy Director Orders the Evacuation - However, Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, was told during a call with the FAA that at least one other plane, in addition to the two that hit the Twin Towers, is unaccounted for and possibly heading for New York (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and he passed this information on to Rotanz. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Rotanz was given the same warning by a Secret Service agent who works in WTC 7. [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Based on this information, he “surmised that [WTC 7] was potentially the next target,” Bylicki will recall. He consequently now orders all OEM employees to leave the building. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004] A Secret Service agent, presumably the one who told Rotanz about the additional unaccounted-for planes, also reportedly advises EOC personnel to evacuate. He says, “There’s a reported third plane headed toward the East Coast and we’re warning everybody to vacate the building,” Fire Department Captain Abdo Nahmod will recall. [Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 pdf file]
Some Liaisons Have Come to the Operations Center - Various city agencies were contacted after the EOC was activated and instructed to send their designated representatives to the center. None of these representatives have arrived by the time the EOC is evacuated, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293, 305] However, contradicting this claim, a number of emergency responders will recall arriving at the EOC before it is evacuated, to serve as representatives for their agencies. [City of New York, 10/11/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 12/4/2001; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011, pp. 42 pdf file]
Staffers Are Initially Slow to Leave - Personnel reportedly do not initially respond to the evacuation order with a sense of urgency. They “calmly collected personal belongings and began removing OEM records,” a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will state. But they are subsequently “urged to abandon everything and leave the building quickly.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16 pdf file] After evacuating from the EOC, they assemble in the lobby of WTC 7 and await further instructions over radio. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003] Most of them think they are only temporarily abandoning their facility and expect to return to it later in the day. They do not anticipate WTC 7 being affected by fires (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001) and then collapsing late this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 84]
Fire Commissioner Will Be Surprised That the Center Is Evacuated - Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen will be surprised when he finds that the EOC has been evacuated, since the center was designed for dealing with a crisis like the one currently taking place. “I thought that was where we should all be because that’s what [it] was built for,” he will comment. He will arrive at WTC 7 looking for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When he learns that the EOC has been evacuated, he will think: “How ridiculous. We’ve got a 13-million-dollar command center and we can’t even use it.” He will say in frustration: “How can we be evacuating OEM? We really need it now.” [Essen, 2002, pp. 26; Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 230]
Time of the Evacuation Is Unclear - It is unclear exactly when the EOC is evacuated. The order to evacuate is issued at “approximately 9:30” a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] But, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards of Technology, the evacuation occurs slightly later than this, at “approximately 9:44 a.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] Other accounts will suggest it may even have taken place before the second attack on the WTC 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). [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 34; Dylan Avery, 2007] Many people in the rest of WTC 7 left the building earlier on, around the time of the second attack (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, Richard Bylicki, Thomas Von Essen, Richard Rotanz, Abdo Nahmod, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The OEM command bus.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 pdf file; 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 pdf file; 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 pdf file; 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 pdf file] 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 pdf file] 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]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The New York City Police Academy.The New York City Police Academy. [Source: Heather Holland / DNAinfo]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) establishes an alternate Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the New York City Police Academy. The OEM’s original EOC, on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7, was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m. due to a report that more commercial planes were unaccounted for (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305, 311] Since then, the OEM command bus has served as the office’s command post (see (Shortly After 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004]
Police Commissioner Recommended Going to the Police Academy - Following the collapse of the North Tower of the WTC, at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the officials with him considered where to set up their operations. After they spent some time at a firehouse (see (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001), Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik recommended they use the Police Academy as their command center since, he will later recall, it is “a centrally located building of modest height and design, and an unlikely target if the terrorists should strike again.” Additionally, it has “phones and meeting rooms, and could be secured easily.” Consequently, the academy, on East 20th Street, was selected as the new location for the EOC. [Kerik, 2001, pp. 340-342; 9/11 Commission, 4/6/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Giuliani and his entourage arrived there at around midday and were soon at work, planning the city’s response to the terrorist attacks. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 19]
New Operations Center Is Activated Early in the Afternoon - Meanwhile, the New York Police Department and the OEM set up the new EOC in the library at the academy. In the space of around two and a half hours, the facility is fully operational, with phone lines and computers available, and spaces for at least 30 agencies. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] It is activated at around 2:00 p.m., according to a report by Tricia Wachtendorf of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 76]
Phones and Computers Keep Going Down - OEM personnel promptly get to work, in collaboration with other agencies, on the logistics of the rescue operation. Among other things, they set about ordering supplies and equipment for the rescue effort, determining where and how they can move in trucks and heavy machinery, and developing plans for how to move and where to locate the steel and debris from the WTC site. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file] However, they experience problems as they try to carry out their operations. “The phones kept going down, the little computer network we jerry-rigged kept going down, so everything had to be done with pen and paper,” Henry Jackson, deputy director for administration at the OEM who is responsible for setting up the temporary facility, will complain. The EOC will be located at the Police Academy until September 14, when it will move to a larger space at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; ArcNews, 12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]

Entity Tags: New York City Police Department, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Office of Emergency Management, Bernard Kerik, Henry Jackson (OEM)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A four-image progression of photos showing World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing down into its footprint.A four-image progression of photos showing World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing down into its footprint. [Source: unknown] (click image to enlarge)Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex, a 47-story tower, collapses. No one is killed. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It collapses in 6.6 seconds, which is just 0.6 of a second longer than it would have taken a free-falling object dropped from its roof to hit the ground. [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005] Many questions will arise over the cause of its collapse in the coming months and years. Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, is the first modern, steel-reinforced high-rise to collapse because of fire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002] Some will later suggest that the diesel fuel stored in several tanks on the premises may have contributed to the building’s collapse. The building contained a 6,000-gallon tank between its first and second floors and another four tanks, holding as much as 36,000 gallons, below ground level. There were also three smaller tanks on higher floors. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002; New York Observer, 3/25/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] However, the cause of the collapse is uncertain. A 2002 government report will conclude: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] Some reports indicate that the building may have been deliberately destroyed. Shortly after the collapse, CBS News anchor Dan Rather comments that the collapse is “reminiscent of… when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] And moments after the collapse, MSNBC’s Brian Williams joins David Restuccio, an FDNY lieutenant, by phone to ask him about the collapse. “You guys knew this was coming all day?” asks Williams. Restuccio replies: “We had heard reports that the building was unstable, and that it would eventually need to come down on its own, or it would be taken down. I would imagine it came down on its own.” Restuccio does not explain what he means by “it would be taken down.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Dan Rather, World Trade Center, David Restuccio

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 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 pdf file; 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

Henry Jackson.Henry Jackson. [Source: Henry Jackson]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) opens a new operations center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River after World Trade Center Building 7, where its original Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was located, collapsed on the afternoon of September 11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004; Guardian, 1/28/2008] The original EOC, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, was evacuated at around 9:30 a.m. on September 11 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305; Guardian, 1/28/2008] The OEM command bus initially served as the office’s command post (see (Shortly After 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and then, that afternoon, an alternate EOC was established at the New York City Police Academy (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 pdf file; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 76; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004]
New Operations Center Is Set Up at the Site of a Planned Exercise - However, it was soon realized that the location was too small for the OEM’s needs. OEM Director Richard Sheirer suggested that a new EOC should therefore be set up at Pier 92 and the decision was made to do this. Pier 92 was chosen because it was going to be the site of a training exercise on September 12 called Tripod, which would test how well the OEM could administer treatments in response to a biological terrorism attack (see September 12, 2001). Consequently, equipment was already there that could be used in a replacement EOC. Henry Jackson, deputy director for administration at the OEM, was given the order to build the new facility at 8:00 a.m. on September 12 and by the end of the day, 150 people were helping to set it up. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/7/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] The new EOC is operational by September 14. OEM representatives are instructed to report to it for the 6:00 p.m. shift that day. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 76]
Facility Is Organized Like the Original Operations Center - The new operations center is arranged just like the original EOC in WTC 7. OEM and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials sit on a raised platform known as “command and control,” surrounded by 10 sections, which each represent a particular task, such as law enforcement, debris removal, transportation, and infrastructure. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 94] The facility is equipped with networked computers, telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, and supplies. A media briefing area, from which Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will hold regular press conferences, is created near the back of the facility. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 88-89]
Facility Is Much Larger than the Original Operations Center - The facility is about 125,000 square feet in size, making it around two and a half to three times larger than the original EOC in WTC 7. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] More organizations with more representatives have desks there than could have been accommodated at the original EOC. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 105] Eventually, 175 agencies will be represented there. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 pdf file] One senior OEM official will in fact remark that, even if the smaller original EOC in WTC 7 had survived on September 11, unlike the replacement facility, it would have lacked the capacity to manage the city’s response to the 9/11 attacks. [Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, 10/2002 pdf file]
New Operations Center Has Extensive Security - The new EOC is four miles north-northwest of the WTC site. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20 pdf file] Workers there can easily be transported to and from Ground Zero by boat or by the West Side Highway. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355] Considerable security is provided, as the facility is regarded as a likely target for any further terrorist attacks. Armed snipers are positioned on the roof, soldiers with automatic weapons guard the street-side entrances, and armed patrol boats keep watch from the river. [ArcNews, 12/2001; Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 105] The EOC will be located at Pier 92 until February 2002, when the OEM will move its operations to a facility in Brooklyn. [Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research, 10/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Henry Jackson (OEM), Office of Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Richard Sheirer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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