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Context of '6:47 a.m.-2:47 p.m. September 11, 2001: Fire Alarm System in WTC 7 Is in ‘Test Condition’'

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The fire alarm system in World Trade Center Building 7 is placed on “test condition,” which causes any alarms to be ignored, every morning in the seven days preceding September 11. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. 94; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 67; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 69] WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located 370 feet north of the North Tower. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 2] Its alarm system is placed on test condition “every morning at about the same time” in the seven days before September 11, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Since it will be in test condition on September 11 for a period of eight hours, starting at 6:47 a.m. (see 6:47 a.m.-2:47 p.m. September 11, 2001), the system is presumably put on test condition at a similar time and also for eight hours in the seven days before then. At the end of the eight-hour period, the alarm system automatically returns to normal monitoring.
Alarms Are Ignored During Testing - Test condition is usually requested when maintenance or testing is being carried out on the alarm system. While the system is in this mode, any alarms that are received are considered to be the result of the maintenance or testing and are therefore ignored. Furthermore, while the system is in test condition, any alarm signals do not appear on the operator’s display. However, records of the alarm are still recorded in the system’s history file. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 66; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 68-69]
Alarm System Is Monitored Away from the WTC - The alarm system in WTC 7 records information at just one location within the building: the fire command station in the third-floor lobby. It is monitored at a location away from the WTC site by AFA Protective Systems, a New York-based company that designs, installs, and services fire alarm systems. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. 93; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 4/5/2005 pdf file; US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 8/4/2017] AFA Protective Systems usually places the alarm system in WTC 7 on test condition in response to a request from the building manager. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 69] It is unclear who the building manager is, although Mike Catalano, chief engineer for Salomon Smith Barney at WTC 7, will later say the building manager is a man called Ed Campbell. [International Union of Operating Engineers, 2003, pp. 27; 9/11 Commission, 1/16/2004 pdf file] Records indicate that the alarm system in WTC 7 is often placed on test condition. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 69]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Ed Campbell, Mike Catalano, AFA Protective Systems

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The fire alarm system in World Trade Center Building 7 is placed on “test condition,” which causes any alarms to be ignored, for a period of eight hours. At 6:47 a.m., the system is placed in a “TEST: ALL” condition. This usually happens when maintenance or other testing is being performed on it. While the system is in this condition, any alarms that are received are considered to be the result of the maintenance or testing and are ignored. Additionally, any alarm signals do not appear on the operator’s display. However, records of the alarm are recorded in the system’s history file. The alarm system automatically returns to normal monitoring after eight hours, which means it does so at 2:47 p.m. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 6/2004, pp. 28, 94] However, no alarm signals will be received after that time, even though WTC 7 subsequently suffers some large fires (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). A report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology will later suggest the reason for this could be that “either the building alarm system was not functioning after about 2:47 p.m.… or… the offsite monitoring system or its link to WTC 7 was incapacitated in some way.” A fire is detected by the system, though, at one time while it is in test condition. This occurs at 10:00 a.m., just after the South Tower collapses (see 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 69-70] The alarm system is placed on test condition today at the request of a person with the surname Williams. Further details of this person are unknown. The system has been placed on test condition every morning for the last seven days (see September 4-10, 2001). [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 6/2004, pp. 94]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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 South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. [Source: Associated Press]The South Tower of the World Trade Center tilts to the southeast and then collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m., 56 minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 44] The first sign of the collapse is visible on floor 82. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 87] The angle of the tilt will be disputed after 9/11 (see September-November 2005), as will the time it takes the towers to fall to the ground (see September 12, 2001-September 2005). [Scientific American, 10/9/2001; Eagar and Musso, 12/2001; PBS Nova, 5/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/30/2006]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The fire alarm system in World Trade Center Building 7 detects a possible fire somewhere in the building, although the exact location of this possible fire is not signified. The alarm system has been placed on “test condition,” which causes any alarms to be ignored, for a period of eight hours, beginning at 6:47 a.m. this morning (see 6:47 a.m.-2:47 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. 28] But less than two minutes after the South Tower collapsed (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), while it is in this condition, the system registers an alarm. This does not necessarily mean there is a fire in the building, however. “Even though a fire alarm is indicated,” a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will later comment, “the record might have been the result of dust entering smoke detectors.” The alarm record will show that the fire condition occurs in “AREA 1.” However, NIST will be informed that AREA 1 is not a specific area within WTC 7, but instead refers to the entire building. This means that “a fire detected in any fire alarm zone in the building would have resulted in the same AREA 1 identification,” NIST will state. While the alarm system is in test condition, as is currently the case, records of an alarm are recorded in its history file but alarm signals do not appear on the operator’s display. And NIST will state that none of the interviews conducted by its investigation team, which examines the collapse of WTC 7, “contained any mention of an alarm received at the fire command station” in the building’s third-floor lobby. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 68-70]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


Several small fires burn inside World Trade Center Building 7.
Several small fires burn inside World Trade Center Building 7. [Source: New York City Police Department]World Trade Center Building 7 is reported to be on fire. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Building 7 of the World Trade Center, located across the street from the Twin Towers, caught fire after the initial attacks on the WTC. [CNN, 9/12/2001] By 4:10 in the afternoon, CNN had reported it being on fire (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). Subsequently it is reported that WTC 7 is in danger of collapsing or may have already collapsed. At around 4:15 p.m., CNN reports, “We’re getting information that one of the other buildings… Building 7… is on fire and has either collapsed or is collapsing… now we’re told there is a fire there and that the building may collapse as well.” About 12 minutes later, BBC reporter Greg Barrow, who is in New York, appears on the BBC radio channel Five Live and says, “We are hearing reports from local media that another building may have caught light and is in danger of collapse.” He adds, “I’m not sure if it has yet collapsed but the report we have is talking about Building 7.” Around this time, the area around Building 7 is being evacuated, apparently because senior firefighters have determined it is in danger of collapsing (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). At 4:53, based on the earlier reports, the Radio Five Live show’s presenter will incorrectly claim that Building 7 has already collapsed, saying, “Twenty-five minutes ago we had reports from Greg Barrow that another large building has collapsed just over an hour ago.” [BBC, 3/2/2007] Starting at 4:54, BBC television will also begin reporting that Building 7 has already collapsed (see 4:54 p.m.-5:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, it does not do so until 5:20 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, CNN, British Broadcasting Corporation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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