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Profile: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is established to oversee federal planning for natural disasters, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, and other potential emergencies. The Carter Administration sought the creation of FEMA after the nation’s emergency response plans came under strong criticism for being disorganized and spread across numerous bureaucratic agencies. Pursuant to Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and Executive Order 12127, FEMA will now consolidate several disaster and emergency preparedness agencies into a single agency within the executive branch. FEMA will incorporate the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, the Federal Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration, the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, the National Fire Academy, and the Community Preparedness Program. It will also take over several programs formally run out of the Executive Office of the President, including those pertaining to earthquake preparedness, management of terrorist attacks, dam safety, and the nation’s emergency warning and broadcasting systems. [United Press International, 5/9/1977; Message of the President, 6/19/1978; President Jimmy Carter, 3/31/1979; B. Wayne Blanchard, 2/5/2008, pp. 23-24]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. Upon its establishment, FEMA absorbs the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA) and the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which were previously responsible for the top-secret plans (see April 1, 1979). During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, FEMA’s budget and workforce are overwhelming geared towards the COG program (see 1982-1991 and February 1993). FEMA remains in charge of overseeing the government’s continuity plans up to present day. According to FEMA’s website, the agency’s Office of National Continuity Programs (NCP) is currently the “Lead Agent for the Federal Executive Branch on matters concerning continuity of national operations under the gravest of conditions.” [fema.gov, 6/4/2009]
Louis O. Giuffrida is confirmed by the Senate to become the next director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Guiffrida, who was recently promoted to the rank of general in the California National Guard, served under President Reagan when Reagan was governor of California. Giuffrida headed the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) (see 1971) and was an “adviser on terrorism, emergency management, and other special topics.” According to Reagan, Giuffrida has a “lengthy career as a military and civilian expert in crime prevention and investigation, industrial defense, physical security, civil disturbances and disasters, confinement, and rehabilitation responsibilities.” [Nomination of Louis O. Giuffrida To Be Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2/24/1981; Bumgarner, 1/18/2008, pp. 142] Giuffrida wrote a paper while at the US Army War College advocating martial law and the emergency roundup and detention of millions of “American Negroes” (see 1970). He will resign in 1985 amid allegations of corruption (see July 24, 1985).
President Reagan announces the creation of the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB) “to improve mobilization capabilities and interagency cooperation within the federal government to respond to major peacetime or war-related emergencies.” The board will study emergency preparedness responsibilities and make policy suggestions to the president, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to the White House, the new board consists of “representatives from 22 federal agencies at the deputy secretary or under secretary level, and is chaired by the assistant to the president for national security affairs.” A full-time secretariat, chaired by a senior official from FEMA, is to oversee the EMPB and the implementation of its recommendations. The board will consist of 11 separate working groups: industrial mobilization, military mobilization, food and agriculture, government operations, emergency communications, civil defense, social services, human resources, health, law enforcement and public safety, and economic stabilization and public finance. The EMPB will later be criticized for becoming overly powerful and militarizing the nation’s emergency management programs. National security affairs expert Diana Reynolds will later comment: “By forming the EMPB, Ronald Reagan made it possible for a small group of people, under the authority of the NSC, to wield enormous power. They, in turn, used this executive authority to change civil defense planning into a military/police version of civil security.” [White House, 12/29/1981; Reynolds, 1990]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, spends the majority of its budget on secret “doomsday” preparations. Since its creation, FEMA has been secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to keep the government functioning in times of national emergency (see April 1, 1979-Present). Over a 10-year period, from 1982 to 1991, FEMA spends $2.9 billion—about 78 percent of its total budget—on classified national security programs. As Cox News Service will later note, “That’s roughly 12 times more than the $243 million FEMA spent during those 10 years preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods.” [Cox News Service, 2/22/1993]
Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop plans for implementing martial law in the event of a national emergency. The plans are developed under the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is designed to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of disaster. As a member of the National Security Council (NSC), North is assigned to the Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (EMPB), formed by President Reagan to coordinate civil defense planning among the NSC, FEMA, and White House (see December 29. 1981). According to the Miami Herald, the martial law plans would “suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent, or national opposition to a US military invasion abroad.” Sources will claim North is involved in a major domestic surveillance operation as part of the COG program (see 1980s and 1980s or Before). During investigations into the Iran-Contra affair, Representative Jack Brooks (D-TX) will be barred from asking North about his involvement with the plans and the secret program (see 1987). [Miami Herald, 7/5/1987; Reynolds, 1990; Radar, 5/2008]
The National Preparedness Directorate within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is responsible for overseeing parts the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, develops and maintains a high-tech fleet of mobile command centers, known as Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) units. The MERS vehicles, crafted out of 18-wheel tractor-trailer trucks, are meant to provide federal leaders with the ability to not only escape a nuclear attack, but also monitor information and communicate with the rest of the government while on the move. The MERS units cost billions of dollars to develop and are packed with sophisticated technology. According to Cox News Service: “Sensitive radio, telephone, and satellite gear—much of it classified—is stored in custom-built trucks that resemble mobile bank vaults.… The mobile units can operate for a month without support. They include generators capable of powering a three-story airport terminal and a fuel tanker that can suck diesel fuel from whatever service stations survive the nuclear blast.” One truck carries a pop-up satellite dish and weighs 24 tons. Early models, however, are inundated with problems. When the first two MERS prototypes are tested in 1984, one gets wedged beneath a highway overpass because it is too tall, while the other causes a road to collapse because it is too heavy. There are also technical flaws. The communication system at the heart of the Continuity of Government program does not function properly from late 1985 until at least December 1990 (see Late 1985 and December 1990). Despite the complications, FEMA eventually constructs 300 MERS vehicles and stations them at secure facilities in Washington State, Massachusetts, Denver, southern Georgia, and rural Texas. Most of the MERS vehicles are used rarely, if ever. “Billions of dollars were spent on such equipment, much of which is now gathering dust in Army depots,” the New York Times reports in 1994. [Emerson, 8/7/1989; Cox News Service, 2/22/1993; New York Times, 4/18/1994]
The Reagan administration asks Congress for $4.3 billion for what the 1980 GOP campaign platform called a “civil defense which would protect the American people against nuclear war at least as well as the Soviet population is protected.” The funding request is for a program, based on the platform plank, that the administration says will protect 80 percent of Americans in case of a massive Soviet nuclear strike. President Reagan’s chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Louis Giuffrida, says of nuclear war, “It would be a terrible mess, but it wouldn’t be unmanageable.” FEMA’s head of civil defense, William Chipman, says that most civilians would not only survive a nuclear onslaught, but would rebuild society in short order: “As I say, the ants eventually build another anthill.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 130]
John Brinkeroff, deputy for national preparedness programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), outlines plans for implementing martial law in the event of a national emergency. In a memorandum later obtained by the Miami Herald, Brinkeroff describes how FEMA and the military would take over the country in the event of a crisis. According to the Herald, the plans include “suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments, and declaration of martial law during a national crisis.” Although the term “national crisis” is not defined, the Herald will later report that it is understood to mean anything from nuclear war to “violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a military invasion abroad.” A source will tell the Herald the contingency plan is authorized by an “executive order or legislative package that [President] Reagan would sign and hold within the NSC [National Security Council] until a severe crisis arose.” This may refer to emergency legislation drafted by the Reagan administration to amend the 1950 Defense Resources Act (see September 25, 1984) and proposed updates to Executive Order 11490 (see August 2, 1984). The Brinkeroff memo resembles a paper written in 1970 by the current head of FEMA, Louis O. Giuffrida, in which he advocated the roundup and transfer of at least 21 million “American Negroes” to “assembly centers or relocation camps” in the event of an emergency (see 1970). [Miami Herald, 7/5/1987]
President Reagan signs classified National Security Decision Directive 55, Enduring National Leadership. The directive authorizes a dramatic expansion of the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) procedures, intended to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of extreme national emergency. NSDD-55 will spawn a new wave of ultra-secretive programs and policies aimed at protecting the federal government during disasters, particularly in cases of prolonged nuclear war. A clandestine branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known as the National Preparedness Directorate, will oversee many of the revamped COG programs. President Reagan’s directive substantially boosts spending for “government preparedness” within FEMA, from $21.9 million to $131 million a year. Spending for civil defense within FEMA is increased as well. Also around this time, a highly clandestine agency, the National Program Office (NPO), is established by way of a top-secret presidential directive (see (1982 -1991)). It is unclear, however, if this directive is NSDD-55, which is classified and never made public. NSDD-55 will be briefly mentioned years later in media reports, but details of its contents will remain unknown. Some information regarding the document’s background will be confused in the press. Cox News Service will mistakenly identify the order as National Security Directive 58, while the New York Times will report it was signed in January 1983. Records gathered by the Federation of American Scientists will date the directive September 14, 1982. [CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991; Cox News Service, 2/22/1993; New York Times, 4/18/1994; Federation of American Scientists, 6/9/2009]
Despite reports alleging the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP) has been shut down, an internal Pentagon memo reveals it is still in existence. The program, which is currently being run out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is designed to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war. It was supposedly shut down after Congress cut off funding for WISP in 1974 (see 1974). The recent memo, however, summarizes the WISP’s current objectives: “The National WISP provides for the control and examination of communications entering, leaving, transiting, or touching the borders of the United States, and voluntary withholding from publication, by the domestic public media industries, of military and other information which should not be released in the interest of the safety and defense of the United States and its allies.” Investigative columnist Jack Anderson will later report: “There has been no Congressional funding for work on the censorship program since 1974, but the Pentagon directive is still in effect. So, too, is Executive Order 11490, which outlines each federal agency’s responsibilities in time of ‘severe emergency.’” Anderson will add that FEMA has drafted “standby” legislation to activate the censorship plans “whenever the president shall deem that the public safety demands it.” [Ocala Star-Banner, 3/29/1986]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with 34 other federal departments and agencies, conducts a large-scale “civil readiness” exercise to test the government’s response procedures for national emergencies. Readiness Exercise 84, dubbed Rex-84 for short, consists of two separate parts, Alpha and Bravo, both of which are conducted in conjunction with a Joint Chiefs exercise known as Night Train 84. Rex-84 Bravo focuses on potential “civil disturbances, major demonstrations, and strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization.” During the exercise, the government practices plans for imposing martial law, deploying military forces in US cities, and arresting civilians considered threats to national security. [Bradlee, 6/30/1988, pp. 133-135; Reynolds, 1990]
In a letter to National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Attorney General William French Smith strongly objects to martial law plans developed by the National Security Council and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Smith learns the full extent of the plans upon reviewing a proposal by the Reagan administration to change Executive Order 11490 (see October 28, 1969). The Reagan administration is holding the drafted changes, along with standby legislation to amend the 1950 Defense Resources Act (see September 25, 1984), in preparation for any emergency that may require a military-style takeover of the nation’s resources and population. The plans cover a range of crisis situations, including a nuclear attack, natural disasters, and civil unrest. Smith writes: “I believe that the draft executive order raises serious substantive and public policy issues that should be further addressed before this proposal is submitted to the president. In short I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the revised executive order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness.” Smith continues: “This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an ‘emergency czar’ role for FEMA. Specific policy concerns regarding recent FEMA initiatives include the abandonment of the principle of ‘several’ agency responsibility and the expansion of the definition of severe emergencies to encompass ‘routine’ domestic law enforcement emergencies. Legal objections relate to the absence of presidential or Congressional authorization for unilateral FEMA directives which seek to establish new federal government management structures or otherwise task cabinet departments and other federal agencies.” Despite the objections of the Justice Department, FEMA and the Reagan administration will not abandon the emergency doctrine. Before leaving office, Reagan will dramatically expand the government’s emergency powers and officially override Executive Order 11490 with Executive Order 12656 (see November 18, 1988). [Miami Herald, 7/5/1987; Reynolds, 1990]
The Reagan administration prepares a reserve emergency bill to amend the 1950 Defense Resources Act. The legislation, which would be presented to Congress in the event of a crisis, would suspend the Constitution and give the president and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unprecedented powers to combat a disaster. Nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson comments, “Since FEMA’s draft legislation is a standby proposal, it will not be offered to Congress ahead of time—when it could be thoroughly debated—but only in the event of a national emergency, when Congress would supposedly be panicked into voting for a dictatorship.” The bill covers a range of emergencies, including nuclear war, natural disasters, financial crises, and civil disturbances. It would grant the government the authority to ration goods and resources, take control of the nation’s manufacturing base, and require all citizens to work in “activities essential to the national health, safety, or interest.” The bill would outlaw striking by workers, and those refusing to work or caught lying about the availability of manpower would be heavily fined or thrown in jail. It would grant the government the authority to seize real estate and personal property considered “necessary for the national defense purpose.” Datamation magazine says the plans would lead to a military takeover of the computer industry. The bill would give the government “unlimited powers to seize computers and plants of high-technology industries and would establish an Office of Censorship to control telecommunications leaving the United States, making it a crime for companies to use secret codes.” [Ledger (Lakeland FL), 9/25/1984; Evening Independent, 10/17/1984]
The FBI Administrative Index, known as ADEX for short (see Late 1971-1985), is transferred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The index contains the names and background information of approximately 12,000 individuals considered to be potential threats in times of crisis. Citizens on the list are to be closely monitored and/or detained in the event of a national emergency. Documents later obtained by the Austin American-Statesman will reveal an internal struggle between FBI Director William Webster, who recommends the FBI maintain control of the list, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, who, along with Reagan adviser Robert McFarlane, demands the list be handed over to FEMA. The list ultimately ends up under the control of FEMA. [Texas Observer, 5/15/1987]
Systems Evaluations Incorporated, a company recently founded by Fred Westerman, a newly retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran, is contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers to help set up secret storage facilities in five states for the ultra-secretive Continuity of Government program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the clandestine National Program Office (see (1982 -1991)) will operate the facilities and oversee their construction. Within a year, Westerman will begin to report to government officials instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within the program (see 1986-1987). His job will be threatened in November 1987 (see November 1987) and his contract will be canceled in December of that year (see December 1987). Westerman will file a lawsuit against the government alleging FEMA burglarized Systems Evaluations’ offices in late 1987 (see Late 1987) and that the government launched a surveillance campaign against him (see November 1988). The lawsuit will be frozen when the Justice Department opens an investigation of Westerman (see November 1988) and the suit will later be sealed after an in-depth report highlighting Westerman’s case is published by a major magazine (see August 8, 1989). Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances, in 1990 (see 1990), and by November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Louis O. Giuffrida announces he will step down from his position on September 1. The announcement comes a day before a subcommittee is scheduled to officially approve a report detailing waste, fraud, and abuse at the nation’s disaster agency (see July 25, 1985). Giuffrida is singled out in the report for improperly using agency funds and committing possible perjury, although he says his resignation is unrelated to the subcommittee’s investigation. [Associated Press, 7/26/1985]
The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Tennessee Democrat Al Gore, officially approves a report detailing numerous instances of waste, fraud, and abuse at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The 18-month subcommittee investigation finds mismanagement at the highest levels of the agency. The report describes improper awarding of no-bid contracts, the use of agency funds to build luxurious living quarters for FEMA officials, acceptance of gifts by officials from contractors, and questionable payments to contractors. It states that FEMA Director Louis O. Giuffida has used agency funds to pay for first class plane tickets for his wife’s travel. The former third highest-ranking official at FEMA, Fred J. Villella, is accused of using government expenses to upgrade a chapel for his daughter’s wedding. The report says the Triton Corporation, a FEMA contracted company, gave Giuffrida, Villella, and their wives tickets to a $250-a-plate fundraiser held by a private club with ties to the Republican Party. It highlights conflicts in the sworn statements given to the subcommittee by Giuffrida and other agency officials, and recommends the Justice Department review their testimony for possible perjury. [Associated Press, 10/24/1984; Associated Press, 7/26/1985]
Fred Westerman, a retired Army intelligence veteran who now heads a government contracted security firm, reports several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is supposed to ensure the survival of the federal government during disaster situations. Westerman’s company, Systems Evaluations Incorporated, was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1985 to set up secret COG storage facilities around the country for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the clandestine National Program Office (see 1985). Within a year, however, Westerman becomes disturbed by problems he notices within the secret COG program. He alerts officials that engine parts are falling off emergency vehicles at several secret sites. He reports that security systems and alarms at secure government facilities are faulty. He says doors and locks at the secret locations are weak and flimsy. He says his workers have been exposed to toxic chemicals from leaking containers at multiple government installations. Westerman reports that at one location water has seeped onto high-voltage electrical lines. He also becomes concerned about payments being made to companies for inadequate work. Westerman is repeatedly pressured by superiors not to complain about the problems, but nonetheless brings his complaints to the FBI, the Justice Department, and the inspector general’s office within FEMA. Westerman’s job will be threatened after he refuses to hand over corporate documents to a competitor (see November 1987). FEMA officials will allegedly burglarize Westerman’s office in search of the documents in late 1987 (see Late 1987). System Evaluation’s contract with the government will be canceled in December 1987 (see December 1987) and Westerman will later file a lawsuit against the government seeking reimbursement (see November 1988). The lawsuit will be frozen when the Justice Department opens an investigation of Westerman (see November 1988) and the suit will later be sealed after an in-depth report highlighting Westerman’s case is published by a major magazine (see August 8, 1989). Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances, in 1990 (see 1990), and by November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
US Representative Henry B. Gonzalez (D-TX) claims the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is prepared to detain 400,000 Central Americans residing in the United States in the event of an emergency. According to the Texas Observer, Gonzalez says reliable intelligence sources have informed him that the plan, if implemented, would also include a certain number of US citizens, noting that the agency maintains a list of “subversive” individuals to be monitored and/or apprehended in the event of a national emergency, a possible reference to the FBI’s Administration Index (see 1985). [Texas Observer, 5/15/1987; Miami Herald, 7/5/1987]
Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and a Maryland-based company, Brogan Associates Incorporated, approach Fred Westerman, a retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran and current head of the government-contracted security firm Security Evaluations Incorporated. Westerman recently reported irregularities within the highly secretive Continuity of Government program against the wishes of his superiors (see 1986-1987). The group comes to Westerman’s offices and allegedly orders him to hand over important corporate files. Westerman will later allege that FEMA security operations specialist Robert Lorenz and Army Corps of Engineers officer Gerald Boggs order him to hand over corporate documents, communications, records, invoices, and checkbooks to Brogan Associates president Arthur Hutchins. Boggs allegedly notifies Westerman that refusal will result in termination of his company’s contract with the government, while Lorenz reportedly threatens to put Westerman’s company out of business. Westerman refuses to turn over the records, and, according to Westerman, FEMA will burglarize his offices in search of the files (see Late 1987). Systems Evaluations’ contract with the government will be canceled shortly thereafter (see December 1987). Westerman will file a lawsuit against the government (see November 1988), but it will be frozen when the Justice Department opens an investigation of him (see November 1988) and will later be sealed after an in-depth report highlighting Westerman’s case is published by a major magazine (see August 8, 1989). Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances, in 1990 (see 1990), and by November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Associated Press, 9/11/1989]
Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency allegedly burglarize the offices of Systems Evaluations Incorporated, a government-contracted security firm working on the highly classified Continuity of Government program (see 1985). The head of the company, Fred Westerman, recently reported to federal officials several irregularities within the classified project (see 1986-1987) and was subsequently ordered to hand over corporate materials to a competitor, although he refused (see November 1987). Systems Evaluations’ contract will soon be canceled (see December 1987) and the Justice Department will open an investigation of the company shortly after Westerman files a lawsuit against the government seeking restitution (see November 1988 and November 1988). Westerman’s lawsuit will be frozen and sealed (see August 8, 1989), his contracts with the government will be canceled (see December 1987 and 1990), his security clearances will be stripped, and by 1991 he will be left unemployable, in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Associated Press, 9/11/1989]
The Army Corps of Engineers notifies the head of Systems Evaluations Incorporated, Fred Westerman, that his company’s contract to set up secret storage facilities for the highly secretive Continuity of Government program will not being extended, despite previous promises that a five-year renewal was forthcoming. Westerman, a retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran, began work on the secret project in 1985 (see 1985). He began reporting irregularities within the program to government officials in 1986, against the wishes of his superiors (see 1986-1987). Westerman will file a lawsuit against the government seeking restitution (see November 1988), but the suit will be frozen when the Justice Department opens an investigation of him (see November 1988). US District Judge Norma Johnson will seal the suit shortly after an in-depth story on the COG program referring to Westerman’s case is published in a major magazine (see August 8, 1989). In 1990, Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances (see 1990). By November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran Fred Westerman, who now heads the security firm Systems Evaluations Incorporated (see 1985) and whose government contract was canceled after he reported abuses inside the highly secretive Continuity of Government program (see December 1987 and 1986-1987), is alerted that his recently filed lawsuit against the government (see November 1988) is being frozen because the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into his company for allegedly trying to defraud the government. The suit, now frozen, will later be sealed (see August 8, 1989). Westerman will eventually lose another contract, along with his security clearances (see 1990). He will end up living in debt and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran Fred Westerman, who now heads the security firm Systems Evaluations Incorporated (see 1985) and last year reported abuses inside the highly secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program (see 1986-1987), files a lawsuit in the US Court of Claims against the Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), two other unidentified federal agencies, and a private company believed to be Brogan Associates Incorporated. A government contract maintained by Systems Associates was canceled last year after Westerman reported irregularities inside the clandestine COG program (see December 1987 and November 1987). The suit states that government officials targeted Westerman for surveillance and wiretaps shortly after he reported abuses inside the COG program. The lawsuit also alleges that FEMA burglarized his corporate offices (see Late 1987) and officials from the Army, FEMA, and Brogan Associates came to Systems Evaluations demanding corporate files shortly prior to the break-in (see November 1987). The lawsuit also alleges Westerman’s company is still owed half a million dollars in expenses. The suit will be frozen due to an investigation of Westerman’s business (see November 1988) and sealed by a US district judge shortly after an in-depth story on the COG program referring to Westerman’s case is published in a major magazine (see August 8, 1989). In 1990, Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances (see 1990). By November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
President Ronald Reagan signs Executive Order 12656, assigning a wide range of emergency responsibilities to a number of executive departments. The order calls for establishing emergency procedures that go far beyond the nation’s standard disaster relief plans. It offers a rare glimpse of the government’s plans for maintaining “continuity of government” in times of extreme national emergency. The order declares the national security of the country to be “dependent upon our ability to assure continuity of government, at every level, in any national security emergency situation,” which is defined as “any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.” The order instructs department leaders to establish various protocols for crisis situations, including rules for delegating authorities to emergency officials, establishing emergency operating facilities, protecting and allocating the nation’s essential resources, and managing terrorist attacks and civil disturbances. The plans are to be coordinated and managed by the National Security Council and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The presidential order suggests certain laws may have to be altered or expanded to carry out the plans. Although it encourages federal agencies to base the emergency protocols on “existing authorities, organizations, resources, and systems,” it also calls on government leaders to identify “areas where additional legal authorities may be needed to assist management and, consistent with applicable executive orders, take appropriate measures toward acquiring those authorities.” According to the executive order, the plans “will be designed and developed to provide maximum flexibility to the president.” Executive Order 12656 gives specific instructions to numerous federal departments:
The Department of Justice is ordered to coordinate emergency “domestic law enforcement activities” and plan for situations “beyond the capabilities of state and local agencies.” The Justice Department is to establish plans for responding to “civil disturbances” and “terrorism incidents” within the US that “may result in a national security emergency or that occur during such an emergency.” The attorney general is to establish emergency “plans and procedures for the custody and protection of prisoners and the use of Federal penal and correctional institutions and resources.” The Department of Justice is also instructed to develop “national security emergency plans for regulation of immigration, regulation of nationals of enemy countries, and plans to implement laws for the control of persons entering or leaving the United States.” The attorney general is additionally instructed to assist the “heads of federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector in the development of plans to physically protect essential resources and facilities.”
The Department of Defense, acting through the Army, is to develop “overall plans for the management, control, and allocation of all usable waters from all sources within the jurisdiction of the United States.” The secretary of defense is to arrange, “through agreements with the heads of other federal departments and agencies, for the transfer of certain federal resources to the jurisdiction and/or operational control of the Department of Defense in national security emergencies.” The secretary of defense is also instructed to work with industry, government, and the private sector, to ensure “reliable capabilities for the rapid increase of defense production.”
The Department of Commerce is ordered to develop “control systems for priorities, allocation, production, and distribution of materials and other resources that will be available to support both national defense and essential civilian programs.” The secretary of commerce is instructed to cooperate with the secretary of defense to “perform industry analyses to assess capabilities of the commercial industrial base to support the national defense, and develop policy alternatives to improve the international competitiveness of specific domestic industries and their abilities to meet defense program needs.” The Commerce Department is also instructed to develop plans to “regulate and control exports and imports in national security emergencies.”
The Department of Agriculture is ordered to create plans to “provide for the continuation of agricultural production, food processing, storage, and distribution through the wholesale level in national security emergencies, and to provide for the domestic distribution of seed, feed, fertilizer, and farm equipment to agricultural producers.” The secretary of agriculture is also instructed to “assist the secretary of defense in formulating and carrying out plans for stockpiling strategic and critical agricultural materials.”
The Department of Labor is ordered to develop plans to “ensure effective use of civilian workforce resources during national security emergencies.” The Labor Department is to support “planning by the secretary of defense and the private sector for the provision of human resources to critical defense industries.” The Selective Service System is ordered to develop plans to “provide by induction, as authorized by law, personnel that would be required by the armed forces during national security emergencies.” The agency is also vaguely instructed to establish plans for “implementing an alternative service program.”
The Transportation Department is to create emergency plans to manage and control “civil transportation resources and systems, including privately owned automobiles, urban mass transit, intermodal transportation systems, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.” The Transportation Department is also to establish plans for a “smooth transition” of the Coast Guard to the Navy during a national security emergency. The Transportation Department is additionally instructed to establish plans for “emergency management and control of the National Airspace System, including provision of war risk insurance and for transfer of the Federal Aviation Administration, in the event of war, to the Department of Defense.”
The Department of the Treasury is ordered to develop plans to “maintain stable economic conditions and a market economy during national security emergencies.” The Treasury Department is to provide for the “preservation of, and facilitate emergency operations of, public and private financial institution systems, and provide for their restoration during or after national security emergencies.”
The Department of Energy is to identify “energy facilities essential to the mobilization, deployment, and sustainment of resources to support the national security and national welfare, and develop energy supply and demand strategies to ensure continued provision of minimum essential services in national security emergencies.”
The Department of Health and Human Services is instructed to develop programs to “reduce or eliminate adverse health and mental health effects produced by hazardous agents (biological, chemical, or radiological), and, in coordination with appropriate federal agencies, develop programs to minimize property and environmental damage associated with national security emergencies.” The health secretary is also to assist state and local governments in the “provision of emergency human services, including lodging, feeding, clothing, registration and inquiry, social services, family reunification, and mortuary services and interment.” [US President, 11/18/1988]
Entity Tags: US Department of Agriculture, Selective Service System, US Department of Labor, US Department of Defense, US Department of Commerce, Ronald Reagan, National Security Council, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Transportation, US Department of the Treasury, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Justice, US Department of Energy
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
US District Judge Norma Johnson seals a lawsuit filed in the US Court of Claims by retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran and whistleblower Fred Westerman (see November 1988), who currently heads Systems Evaluations Incorporated (see 1985) and whose government contract was canceled after he reported abuses inside the highly secretive Continuity of Government program (see December 1987 and 1986-1987). Johnson issues a gag order on Westerman, forbidding him from discussing his case with members of Congress. The order comes a day after US News and World Report published an in-depth article on the COG program that highlighted Westerman’s case. Westerman’s lawsuit has been frozen since the Justice Department opened an investigation of his company (see November 1988). In 1990, Westerman will lose another contract, along with his security clearances (see 1990). By November 1991, he will be unemployable, several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [Emerson, 8/7/1989; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8/1989; Associated Press, 9/11/1989; CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Hurricane Hugo, shortly before making landfall in South Carolina. [Source: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is strongly criticized for not providing adequate relief to the victims of Hurricane Hugo, a Category 5 storm that hit near Charleston, South Carolina. The storm causes billions of dollars in damage, displaces tens of thousands, and leaves hundreds of thousands jobless and without power. After the storm passes, FEMA is slow to take action. The first FEMA relief office opens a full week after the storm hits. Once the agency moves in, red tape, minimal resources, and poor management bog down the relief efforts. Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) bluntly describes FEMA’s hierarchy as a “bunch of bureaucratic jackasses” that should just “get the hell out of the way.” Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. criticizes FEMA for not bringing enough people or resources to his city. The relief system established by FEMA, he says, “is not designed to cope immediately and urgently with a major disaster.” Robert Hoffman, the mayor of St. Stephen in Berkeley County, says: “I really had more faith in our government.… We’re in serious trouble if FEMA is going to be the [lead] organization in the event of a nuclear war.” Unbeknownst to most of the public and government, the majority of the disaster agency is preoccupied with developing plans for a nuclear doomsday as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government program (see April 1, 1979-Present). [Associated Press, 10/1/1989; Washington Post, 10/4/1989; National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, 8/1/2005]
During the 1990s, FEMA’s response plan for responding to a potential major hurricane in New Orleans provides that it would pre-deploy ships with hospital facilities and ships with pumps that could assist in the dewatering of the city, according to former FEMA Director James Lee Witt. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]
Retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran and whistleblower Fred Westerman, who came under investigation by the Justice Department shortly after filing a lawsuit against the government (see November 1988 and November 1988), loses his security clearances, as well as a classified federal contract, when officials notify his boss that he is facing indictment. Westerman lost a previous contract (see December 1987) after reporting several abuses inside the highly classified Continuity of Government program (see 1986-1987). His lawsuit has been frozen and sealed by the government (see November 1988 and August 8, 1989). With no security clearances and a tarnished reputation, Westerman will become unemployable in the field he knows best. By November 1991, he will be several hundred thousand dollars in debt and unable to gain any restitution from the government (see November 1991). [CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Retired 20-year Army intelligence veteran, classified security expert, and whistleblower Fred Westerman is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and unable to find work in the field he knows best. Beginning in 1985, Westerman headed a security firm that worked on the highly classified Continuity of Government program, which is designed to keep the government functioning in times of disaster (see 1985). The program is predominantly run by the clandestine National Program Office (see (1982 -1991)) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see April 1, 1979-Present). Westerman reported several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse within the classified program to the FBI, the Army, and the inspector general’s office within FEMA (see 1986-1987). Westerman’s contract with the government was subsequently canceled (see December 1987) and the Justice Department launched an investigation of Westerman and his company when he attempted to file a lawsuit against the government (see November 1988 and November 1988). For the past three years, Westerman has been living in what CNN describes as an “intelligence twilight zone… unable to clear his name, unable to resolve his legal cases… caught in an unwinnable struggle with the powerful secret National Program Office.” Westerman has lost his security clearances, government contracts, and reputation (see 1990). “What assets I did have, have either been sold off or have been mortgaged to the hilt,” he tells CNN. “I am in financial disrepair. I am unemployable in the profession that I know best.” David Mann, a security consultant who served with Westerman, tells CNN: “I think what is happening to him particularly is that the federal attorneys and whoever is driving them to do their job are attempting to ruin the man through legal means.… It is a type of modern McCarthyism if you will.” [CNN Special Assignment, 11/17/1991]
Damage from Hurricane Andrew, in Dade County, Florida. [Source: Greenpeace]Approximately three years after facing harsh criticism for its response to Hurricane Hugo (see September-November 1989), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is denounced for not providing adequate relief in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. The storm, which devastates regions of southern Florida and Louisiana, claims dozens of lives, leaves up to a quarter million people temporarily homeless, and causes more than $26 billion in damage. [National Hurricane Center, 12/10/1993; National Hurricane Center, 8/1/2005] Nearly a week after Andrew passes, local officials and citizens in the hardest hit areas are still waiting for assistance from the federal government. Days after the storm, the New York Times reports it is still “unclear just who is in charge of the Federal relief effort.” [New York Times, 8/27/1982] “Blame for the government’s delayed response to Hurricane Andrew is being placed squarely at the feet of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” the Associated Press reports. Even after FEMA moves in, relief is delayed by a lack of resources and bureaucratic red tape. [Associated Press, 8/29/1992] In some cases, the agency brings equipment designed for a nuclear war instead of basic supplies. When the city manager of Homestead, Florida, requests 100 hand-held radios, FEMA is only able to provide high-tech mobile command vehicles (see 1982-April 1994). As Cox News Service will later report: “FEMA sent high-tech vans, capable of sending encrypted, multi-frequency radio messages to military aircraft halfway around the world.… FEMA equipment could call in an air strike but Homestead never got its hand-held radios.” Franklin, Louisiana, which is reportedly “flattened” by the storm, is similarly offered a communications vehicle instead of basic relief. “They offered a mobile communications unit and I told them that was unacceptable,” says Representative Billy Tauzin (D-LA). Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) says the government’s response to the storm is “seen by many of Hurricane Andrew’s victims in Florida as a disaster itself.” Unbeknown to most of the public and government, FEMA is secretly preoccupied with preparations for a nuclear doomsday (see April 1, 1979-Present). [Associated Press, 8/29/1992; Cox News Service, 2/22/1993]
The Clinton administration reorganizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), shifting resources away from secret projects and into disaster relief programs. During the previous two administrations, FEMA’s resources were overwhelmingly geared towards the highly classified Continuity of Government program, meant to keep the government functioning in times of extreme national emergency (see April 1, 1979-Present). The changes to the disaster agency are prompted by strong criticism of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Andrew (see August-September 1992). The secret COG programs are scaled back, but not totally discontinued. The newly appointed director of FEMA, James Lee Witt, eliminates FEMA’s secretive National Preparedness Directorate and shifts its responsibilities to other sections of the disaster agency. FEMA’s budget shows a dramatic drop in funding for secret projects, from about $100 million in 1993 to only $7.5 million in 1994. “What [Director Witt has] done is put FEMA in an all-hazards approach and put it aboveboard,” says FEMA spokesperson Morrie Goodman. “There are, of course,” Goodman adds, “certain areas that can’t be discussed or even acknowledged. That’s just the nature of the beast.” Indeed, uncertainties remain regarding the true extent of FEMA’s reformation. As Mother Jones magazine notes, the reduced classified budget “reflects only a fragment of FEMA’s investment in doomsday preparations, given that many former projects have been redesignated as ‘dual-use’ responses for both natural disasters and national security emergencies.” According to Mother Jones, “much of the doomsday bureaucracy remains intact, parts of the fifth floor are still restricted, and there has been no concerted effort to declassify the underground command posts.” Government officials will claim in 1994 that the COG program is coming to a total end (see April 18, 1994), but FEMA will continue to pursue its secret agenda for years to come (see April 1, 1979-Present). [National Academy of Public Administration, 2/1993 ; Gup and Aftergood, 1/1994; New York Times, 4/18/1994; Sylves, 5/1994]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known best as a relief agency for victims of natural disasters, is preoccupied with preparations for a nuclear doomsday, according to Cox News Service. FEMA employees planning for natural disasters are outnumbered more than three-to-one by those working for the agency’s National Preparedness Directorate, which is responsible for overseeing preparations for nuclear war. Since its creation, FEMA has been secretly dedicated to the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, meant to keep the government functioning in times of national emergency (see April 1, 1979-Present and 1982-1991). Cox News Service finds: “Only 20 members of Congress—those with adequate security clearance—know that rather than concentrating on natural disasters such as last year’s Hurricane Andrew, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been gearing up for Armageddon. While a small group [of FEMA employees] is responsible for helping victims of natural disasters, most of the agency is preoccupied with developing high-tech gadgets for a nuclear doomsday.” [Cox News Service, 2/22/1993]
Merrick Garland, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington, receives an “Urgent” report on his computer from Oklahoma City. The report concerns the bomb that has just ripped through the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some of the report is speculation and some of it is incorrect. It was hastily compiled and sent out from the administrative office of the US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. The report reads in part: “An explosion was heard. Black smoke billowed from a few blocks north.… The explosion rocked the private leased space which houses the US Attorney’s office three blocks north from the federal courthouse.” The report gives details about the federal safety officials sent to investigate: “Along the three-block walk, they found massive glass in the streets from several of the high-rise buildings. Along the way, walking wounded were everywhere, along with emergency rescue vehicles. It appears, and has been speculated, that a massive bomb exploded in the area of ATF, DEA, or Secret Service offices in the Murrah Federal Building. Employees from HUD indicated there were a few suspected deaths, and a couple of critically injured.… Damage to the Murrah building included the front of the building being blown off, several floors seem to be missing, and you can see right through the building in the area of the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors.” Safety officials have inspected the nearby federal courthouse and found extensive damage there as well. “It appeared some small explosions were continuing, perhaps gas lines.” Garland enters the office of Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who calls Attorney General Janet Reno with the news. Reno asks for further information as it comes in. Garland looks for television news reports but sees nothing yet. Another “Urgent” report comes over his computer, again from the US Attorney’s office for the Western District in Oklahoma, and again mixing factual details with errors. “Information was received by the district that it was a bomb,” it reads. “Information was received by the district that there was a second bomb and it was NOT detonated. The northeast side of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was blown out. The 9th floor of the building is gone. All grand jurors have been evacuated. One WDOK (Western District of Oklahoma) employee has a child in the day care center in the Federal Building. Unconfirmed reports from the district were six children in the day care center killed, although CNN is reporting that all of the children are safe. The district reported that there was a bomb threat at a church located north of Oklahoma City. In reviewing cases, the US Attorney’s office initially reported that a defendant in a methamphetamine case had apparently made threats against the government.” Garland now sees pictures from the scene on television news reports, and realizes immediately that the devastation had to have been caused by a bomb and not a gas main break or any other accidental occurrance. By this time, Garland’s office is filling with prosecutors and staffers, stunned at the scenes they are witnessing on TV. Garland meets again with Gorelick, and both meet with Reno. Their first priority is to take control of the situation, and Reno alerts the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A third “Urgent” report comes in; Garland reads: “A Channel 4 [local Oklahoma City television station] reporter reported the Nation of Islam has claimed responsibility for the bombing.… (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After) Dahlia Lehman, the victim witness coordinator in the Western District of Oklahoma, has a daughter employed at the DEA office in the Alfred Murrah Federal Building.” Garland leaves the Justice Department and runs across the street to the FBI building. Stepping into the Strategic Information Operations Center (SIOC), he is amazed at the number of tips already pouring in about the bombing. He stays in the SIOC office for much of the day, coordinating leads and details as information arrives. FBI Director Louis Freeh is in an adjacent room; like Garland, he is collating and processing information. Reports of bomb threats swamp the offices throughout the day (see 9:22 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 10:00 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 182-187]
President Clinton declares a state of emergency for Oklahoma City. Attorney Janet Reno is at the left. [Source: The Oklahoman]In a live television press conference, President Clinton addresses the nation regarding the morning’s bombing in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He says: “The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it. And I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards. I have met with our team which we assembled to deal with this bombing, and I have determined to take the following steps to assure the strongest response to this situation. First, I have deployed a crisis management under the leadership of the FBI (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995), working with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, military and local authorities. We are sending the world’s finest investigators to solve these murders. Second, I have declared an emergency in Oklahoma City. And at my direction, James Lee Witt, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is now on his way there to make sure we do everything we can to help the people of Oklahoma deal with the tragedy. Third, we are taking every precaution to reassure and to protect people who work in or live near other federal facilities. Let there be no room for doubt. We will find the people who did this. When we do, justice will be swift, certain, and severe. These people are killers and they must be treated like killers. Finally, let me say that I ask all Americans tonight to pray, to pray for the people who have lost their lives, to pray for the families and the friends of the dead and the wounded, to pray for the people of Oklahoma City. May God’s grace be with them. Meanwhile, we will be about our work. Thank you.” Clinton asks Americans to pray for the victims. Attorney General Janet Reno follows Clinton in the conference, and says, “The death penalty is available and we will seek it.” She refuses to speculate on whether the date of the bombing—the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After)—is a coincidence or something more. “We are pursuing all leads,” she says. “This has been a tragic and heartbreaking day.… We cannot tell you how long it will be before we can say with certainty what occurred and who is responsible but we will find the perpetrators and we will bring them to justice.” At another time during the same day, Clinton tells a Des Moines reporter: “I was sick all day long. All of us have been looking at the scene where those children were taken out, and all of us were seeing our own children there. This is an awful, awful thing.” [PBS, 4/19/1995; Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Associated Press, 4/20/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187] Clinton press secretary Michael “Mack” McCurry later credits Clinton for putting an end to what he will call “the anti-Arab hysteria that almost swept this country. Because remember, in the first several hours, everyone was pointing fingers at Arab terrorists (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After and April 19, 1995), which turned out to be obviously wrong.” [PBS Frontline, 2000]
After Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39), issued in June 1995 (see June 21, 1995), requires key federal agencies to maintain well-exercised counterterrorist capabilities, the number of counterterrorism exercises being conducted increases significantly. According to a 1999 report by the General Accounting Office, whereas 32 counterterrorist exercises are held between June 1995 and June 1996, from June 1997 to June 1998, 116 such exercises are conducted. Some of the exercises held between June 1995 and June 1998 are “tabletop exercises,” where participants work through a scenario around a table or in a classroom and discuss how their agency might react; others are “field exercises,” where an agency’s leadership and operational units practice their skills in a realistic field setting. Four exercises during this period are “no-notice” exercises, where participants have no advance notice of the exercise. These four exercises are conducted by either the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Department of Energy. DoD leads 97 of the exercises—almost half of the total—held between June 1995 and June 1998. The Secret Service leads 46, the FBI 24, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads 16. Most of the exercises are conducted in the US and are based around the scenario of a domestic terrorist attack. Although intelligence agencies have determined that conventional explosives and firearms continue to be the weapons of choice for terrorists, the majority of exercises are based around scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or agents. More than two-thirds of the exercises have WMD scenarios, with the most common WMD being chemical agents, such as sarin. The other exercises have more traditional and more likely scenarios involving conventional weapons and explosives. [United States General Accounting Office, 6/25/1999 ; Washington Post, 10/2/2001 ]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reportedly considers using an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center during the Atlanta Olympics. The reason for this is not known, but it could be related to terrorism fears, including a possible air attack (see January 20, 1997). [Federal Computer Week, 6/2/1996] An aviation website will later show a picture of an E-4B taking off from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia on May 14, “after crew attended meeting with FEMA prior to ‘96 Atlanta Olympics.” [Airliners.net, 2000] However, there are no reports on whether an E-4B is actually used during the Olympics.
FEMA director James Lee Witt announces Project Impact, under which FEMA will foster partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, as well as local businesses, to help individual communities reduce their vulnerability to certain types of natural disasters. Describing the new initiative, FEMA Director James Lee Witt says, “Our goal, starting with this summit, is to change the way America prevents and prepares for disasters. We’ve got to break the damage-repair-damage-repair cycle.” Project Impact is part of a broader mitigation program aimed at reducing the $14 billion in federal dollars spent annually on disaster relief. Witt says that prevention is necessary because of the apparent increased severity and frequency of natural disasters. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/15/1997; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] Project Impact becomes the agency’s highest profile program. “In Seattle, Washington, for example, the grants [are] used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Mississippi, the project [funds] the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain—crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it [helps] fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.”
[Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues a circular that provides guidance for government agencies to develop plans for continuity of government operations in the event of an emergency, including a terrorist attack. The circular, FPC 65, goes out to the heads of federal departments and agencies, senior policy officials, and emergency planners. It confirms FEMA’s coordinating role in the nation’s Continuity of Government (COG) program, and contains criteria for agencies to develop their continuity plans. It states that an agency’s continuity of operations (COOP) capability “Must be maintained at a high level of readiness”; “Must be capable of implementation both with and without warning”; “Must be operational no later than 12 hours after activation”; “Must maintain sustained operations for up to 30 days”; and “Should take maximum advantage of existing agency field infrastructures.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/26/1999; US Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform, 4/22/2004] Presidential Decision Directive 67 (PDD-67), issued in October 1998 (see October 21, 1998), required agencies to prepare plans to allow the government to continue functioning in the event of a major terrorist attack on the US, and had placed FEMA in charge of the COG program. [Knight Ridder, 11/17/1999; Washington Post, 6/4/2006] The COG plan detailed in that directive will be activated for the first time on the morning of 9/11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 4/25/2004]
A 1998 presidential directive gave the National Security Council authority to designate important upcoming events as National Special Security Events (NSSEs) (see May 22, 1998). The US Secret Service is in charge of planning and implementing security for NSSEs, and the FBI and FEMA also have major security roles. [CSO Magazine, 9/2004; Scripps Howard News Service, 1/11/2005] Louis Freeh, director of the FBI for much of the 1990s until June 2001, will later tell the 9/11 Commission that in the years 2000 and 2001, the subject of “planes as weapons” was always one of the considerations in the planning of security for “a series of these, as we call them, special events,” and “resources were actually designated to deal with that particular threat.” He confirms that “the use of airplanes, either packed with explosives or otherwise, in suicide missions” was “part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] According to the Secret Service, “there is a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination” for NSSEs, sometimes taking months or even years. Various training initiatives are conducted, including “simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises.” [United States Secret Service, 2002; US Congress, 7/9/2002] Presumably the use of airplanes in suicide missions is incorporated into some of these simulated attacks.
A confidential Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) document obtained by Wired news says the US Army is prepared to deploy combat troops in US cities in response to disruptions ranging from civil disobedience to a nuclear attack. The 75-page operations manual, created by FEMA in preparation for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, stresses the importance of preparing for “nuclear, biological, chemical, and civil disturbance events, as well as potential weather-related disaster events.” The document, according to Wired, “says that the US First Army will, if necessary, execute Operation Garden Plot to quell any serious civil disturbances.” Operation Garden Plot was first developed in the late 1960s to deal with potential protests and urban riots (see Winter 1967-1968). According to Wired, the current terrorism plans for the convention include “flying giant C-5 Galaxy cargo planes loaded with military gear into Willow Grove Naval Air Station, about 25 miles outside the city, and assembling troops at three National Guard armories near the downtown protest areas.” The FEMA document states, “The potential occurrence of an event that would reflect negatively on Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the United States demands that every effort to preclude such an event be taken.” FEMA has a similar plan for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. [Wired News, 8/1/2000]
After Congress approves the Bush administration’s proposal to terminate Project Impact (see October 14, 1997-2001), FEMA institutes a new program under which pre-disaster mitigation (PDMs) grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Critics, such as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), say that under the competitive based program, lower income communities will not be able to effectively compete with higher income areas. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2002 budget includes a dramatic cut in federal funding for hazard mitigation grants, reducing the federal-state cost-sharing formula from 75/25 to 50/50. Mitigation grants allow localities to prepare for anticipated disasters by building levees and floodwalls, moving homes out of flood plains, and/or strengthening structures at risk from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The Bush administration asserts that by making states pay more, they will spend the funds more wisely. “Shouldering a larger share of the costs will help to ensure that states select truly cost effective projects, an incentive that is missing if most of the funding is provided by FEMA,” the budget proposal reads. The proposed budget also eliminates FEMA’s Project Impact, the popular $25 million model mitigation program implemented during the Clinton administration in 1997 (see October 14, 1997-2001). Bush officials say the project, which has been launched in 250 cities and towns, “has not proven effective.” Additionally, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate $12 million from the National Flood Insurance Program budget by $12 million by denying coverage for thousands of “repetitive loss” properties in flood plains. [Office of Management and Budget, 2/27/2001, pp. 81 ; Washington Post, 5/8/2001] A repetitive loss property is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed more than 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004] White House spokesman Scott Stanzel explains that proposed cuts to these and other federal emergency management programs are part of “an ongoing effort to shift control and responsibility to the states and give them more flexibility.”
[Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says in an interview with the Washington Post that Bush administration officials “clearly are disassociating themselves from programs closely identified with the previous administration. Whether a broader philosophical process is going on is not entirely clear yet, but I suspect it is.”
[Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Congress will reject the administration’s proposal to reduce the 75/50 cost-sharing formula, but agree to end Project Impact. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) submits written testimony to Congress, recommending that it reject certain budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FEMA. The administration’s proposed $3.3 billion budget for drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure is “totally inadequate,” according to the ASCE. Over the next 20 years, America’s water and wastewater systems need to increase funding by an annual $23 billion, just to meet the existing national environmental and public health priorities in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and to replace aging and failing infrastructure, the ASCE reports, noting that in it’s recently released 2001 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “the drinking water and wastewater categories each received a grade of D.” The ASCE also tells Congress to reject the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate Project Impact, a $25 million model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration in 1997 (see February 27, 2001)
(see October 14, 1997-2001). “Project Impact is a nationwide public-private partnership designed to help communities become more disaster resistant. These types of natural hazard mitigation efforts are precisely what Congress should be funding, in an effort to avoid paying the much higher price after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane hits a local community. ASCE recommends that Congress fully fund Project Impact at the fiscal year 2001 appropriated level of $25 million.”
[American Society of Civil Engineers, 3/21/2001 ]
Vice President Dick Cheney on television, May 8, 2001. [Source: CNN]In a brief statement, President Bush announces that Vice President Dick Cheney will oversee a “coordinated national effort” aimed at integrating the government’s plans for responding to the use of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon within the United States. Bush declares, “Should our efforts to reduce the threat to our country from weapons of mass destruction be less than fully successful, prudence dictates that the United States be fully prepared to deal effectively with the consequences of such a weapon being used here on our soil.” Bush says a new agency within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), known as the Office of National Preparedness, will be “responsible for implementing the results of those parts of the national effort overseen by Vice President Cheney that deal with consequence management.” The Office of National Preparedness appears to be a reincarnation of FEMA’s old National Preparedness Directorate (NPD), which was disbanded by the Clinton administration in 1993 (see January 1993-October 1994). During the 1980s and early 1990s, the NPD secretly spent billions of dollars preparing for nuclear war and other national emergencies as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program (see February 1993, 1982-1991, and April 1, 1979-Present). [Cox News Service, 2/22/1993] Under the Bush administration, the Office of National Preparedness (ONP) will apparently take over where the National Preparedness Directorate left off. According to Bush, the ONP “will coordinate all Federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies.” Cheney, who played a central role in the COG program during the Reagan administration (see 1981-1992 and 1980s), informs CNN, “[O]ne of our biggest threats as a nation” could be “domestic terrorism, but it may also be a terrorist organization overseas or even another state using weapons of mass destruction against the US.… [W]e need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense.” According to FEMA, the ONP will be up and running as early as the summer of 2001. President Bush says he “will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.” [CNN, 5/8/2001; White House, 5/8/2001; New York Times, 7/8/2002] Cheney is meant to head a group that will draft a national terrorism response plan by October 1. [Chicago Sun-Times, 5/5/2001; Insight on the News, 6/18/2001] But, according to Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, “Neither Cheney’s review nor Bush’s took place.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) later implies that Bush assigned this specific role to Cheney in order to prevent Congress from enacting counterterrorism legislation proposed by a bipartisan commission he had co-chaired in January (see January 31, 2001). [Salon, 4/2/2004; Salon, 4/6/2004] In July, two senators will send draft counterterrorism legislation to Cheney’s office, but a day before 9/11, they are told it might be another six months before he gets to it (see September 10, 2001). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Cheney’s “National Preparedness Review” is just beginning to hire staff a few days before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). [Congressional Quarterly, 4/15/2004]
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is located in World Trade Center Building 7, organizes a bio-terrorism drill where militant extremists attack the city with bubonic plague and Manhattan is quarantined. The “tabletop exercise” is called RED Ex—meaning “Recognition, Evaluation, and Decision-Making Exercise”
—and involves about seventy different entities, agencies, and locales from the New York area. Federal legislation adopted in 1997 requires federal, state, and local authorities to conduct regular exercises as part of the Domestic Preparedness Program (DPP). The US Defense Department chose New York City as the venue for RED Ex due to its size, prominence, and level of emergency preparedness. Various high-level officials take part, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Director Richard Sheirer, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Agencies and organizations that participate include New York City Fire Department, New York City Police Department, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The exercise is supposedly so intense that, according to one participant, “five minutes into that drill, everybody forgot it was a drill.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001; New York City Government, 9/5/2001, pp. 74 ; New York Sun, 12/20/2003; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] According to OEM Director Richard Sheirer, “Operation RED Ex provided a proving ground and a great readiness training exercise for the many challenges the city routinely faces, such as weather events, heat emergencies, building collapses, fires, and public safety and health issues.”
[New York City Government, 5/11/2001] In his prepared testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Bernard Kerik later states: “The City, through its OEM, had coordinated plans for many types of emergencies; and those plans were tested frequently.” The types of emergencies they prepared for, he states, included “building collapses” and “plane crashes.”
[9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Considering Richard Sheirer’s comments, RED Ex appears to be one example where the city tests for building collapses. Details about training for airplanes crashing into New York City remain unknown. The second part of this exercise, called Tripod, is scheduled to take place in New York on September 12, 2001, but is cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks.
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh appears before Congress to discuss his agency’s goals and priorities for fiscal year 2002. A chief priority is to reduce the federal government’s role in disaster mitigation and prevention, which, he asserts is “inherently grassroots.” He explains: “These activities involve local decision-making about zoning, building codes, and strategy planning to meet a community’s unique needs. It is not the role of the federal government to tell a community what it needs to do to protect its citizens and infrastructure.… At the same time we are giving more control to state and local governments through the Managing State concept of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and other initiatives, we are asking that they take a more appropriate degree of fiscal responsibility to protect themselves. The original intent of federal disaster assistance is to supplement state and local response efforts. Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level. We must restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters. Federal assistance needs to supplement, not supplant, state and local efforts.… FEMA is looking at ways to develop meaningful and objective criteria for disaster declarations that can be applied consistently. These criteria will not preclude the president’s discretion but will help states better understand when they can reasonably turn to the federal government for assistance and when it would be more appropriate for the state to handle the disaster itself.” Allbaugh also discusses how FEMA will bring Bush’s compassionate conservatism to disaster survivors. “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism is a hallmark of his core philosophy,” Allbaugh states. “The president is promoting faith-based organizations as a way to achieve compassionate conservatism. Not only does FEMA work with… faith-based organizations…, but FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program is the original faith-based initiative and is a perfect fit with President Bush’s new approach to helping the poor, homeless and disadvantaged. Through this program, FEMA works with organizations that are based in the communities where people need help the most.”
[Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/16/2001; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
During a FEMA disaster training session, agency officials lists a number of catastrophic disasters that could strike the US soon. The three most likely disasters, the report says, are a hurricane striking New Orleans, a massive earthquake in San Francisco, and a terrorist attack on New York City. The study predicts that as many as 250,000 people would be stranded in New Orleans because of the city’s less-than-adequate evacuation routes and that one-tenth of those who remain (25,000 people), would probably die. [Houston Chronicle, 12/1/2001; New Republic, 9/26/2005]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues a report warning of the three most likely catastrophes facing America. One of these is a terrorist attack on New York City. (The other two scenarios are a massive San Francisco earthquake and a hurricane hitting New Orleans.) FEMA managers compiled the list of potential disasters at a training session. [Houston Chronicle, 12/1/2001; Salon, 8/31/2005; Independent, 9/4/2005; New Republic, 9/26/2005]
John Magaw. [Source: Public domain]About a week before 9/11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joe Allbaugh replaces the agency’s acting deputy director, John Magaw, a veteran federal law enforcement agent and experienced counterterrorism official, with Michael Brown, a close friend of his and a long-time political associate with no previous experience in emergency management. [Baker, 2009, pp. 484] Magaw is a former director of the US Secret Service and of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In December 1999, Magaw was appointed at FEMA to coordinate the agency’s domestic terrorism efforts. [Market Wire, 12/1999] Allbaugh nominated Michael Brown as the agency’s general counsel upon taking office in January. Brown previously worked as a lawyer for a horse racing association. He has no experience in disaster management (See March 1, 2003). According to Russ Baker, an independent investigative journalist and author of Family of Secrets, a Bush family expose: “One day, Mr. Allbaugh came in and said, ‘I know you’ve got these other things to do. I’m going to ask Mr. Brown to be deputy,’ recalled Magaw who promptly returned to the subordinate position assigned him by Clinton. The timing was remarkable. Just a week before September 11, 2001, Allbaugh replaced a key anti-terrorism official with a crony who had close to zero relevant experience.” [Baker, 2009, pp. 484]
Big Sky Resort, Montana. [Source: FedCenter.gov]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 in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), where the main focuses include the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Most State Emergency Managers in Attendance - Conference attendees include around 350 government and industry emergency specialists. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] Among them are almost all of America’s state emergency management directors and most of the senior FEMA staff. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] They are there, reportedly, “to hear briefings on the latest issues in domestic preparedness, improve state and local capabilities, address energy shortages, and discuss lessons from the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake.” [State Government News, 10/2001 ] The attendees discuss anti-terrorism planning courses, and the status of federal aid and cooperation efforts. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Allbaugh is the event’s keynote speaker and gives his talk on September 10, in which he describes his focus on improving emergency capabilities and preparing for disaster. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Conference Ends Early Due to Attacks - The NEMA conference is originally scheduled to run until September 12. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001] But because of the terrorist attacks on September 11, it ends a day early (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Special arrangements are then made for some of the emergency managers in attendance to be flown home on military aircraft, while others have to drive long distances back to their states (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). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Timing of Attacks Inconvenient - In May this year, President Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to any terrorist attacks in the United States, charging it with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to such attacks (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] Following the attacks on September 11, FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenience of these attacks occurring at the same time as the NEMA conference. He will say that FEMA officials do not know whether the attacks were timed to catch emergency officials off guard, but “it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Its annual conference is being held in Montana this year because its president, Jim Greene, is the administrator of the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services Division. [Billings Gazette, 10/5/2000; National Journal, 1/16/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrive in New York for a forthcoming training exercise and, as a result, their equipment is available to be used by members of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) who are involved in search and rescue operations at Ground Zero the following day. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196] The FEMA representatives are among hundreds of people scheduled to take part in a terrorism training exercise on September 12 that is being organized by the New York City Office of Emergency Management (see September 12, 2001). The exercise, called “Tripod,” is set to take place at Pier 92 on the Hudson River. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; City of New York, 5/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
FEMA Personnel Set Up Equipment for Exercise - The FEMA personnel arrive in New York at some time on September 10 and begin setting up their equipment at Pier 92 for the forthcoming exercise, according to a book by NYPD police officer Anthea Appel. [Appel, 2009, pp. 195] It is unclear which specific FEMA personnel arrive in New York on this day. The first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to respond at Ground Zero will arrive in New York late at night on September 11 (see (10:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Government Executive, 9/1/2002; Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002] And most of the senior FEMA staff is currently in Montana, attending a conference (see September 8-11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
FEMA Equipment Used by Emergency Responders on 9/11 - In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, according to Appel, the FEMA equipment that is being set up at Pier 92 for the exercise will be packed up and moved to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where the ESU sets up a command post. Then, at around 5:00 p.m., it will be moved to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, to be used by ESU officers involved in the search and rescue efforts there. [McKinsey & Company, 8/19/2002 ; Appel, 2009, pp. 195-196]
Preparations are already underway for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on September 29-30, 2001. Many of the agencies that will be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, including the Arlington County Fire Department, are engaged in preparations for the IMF/World Bank event (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Press International, 9/6/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-4 ; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 314] The meetings have been designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). [New York Times, 8/18/2001; Euromoney, 9/1/2001] The Secret Service is in charge of security for NSSEs. [United States Secret Service, 2002] The FBI and FEMA also have key roles. [CSO Magazine, 9/2004; Scripps Howard News Service, 1/11/2005] There are questions about how preparations for an NSSE might have affected security around Washington. When preparing for such an event, the Secret Service carries out “a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in the areas of venue and motorcade route security, communications, credentialing, and training.” It conducts a “variety of training initiatives,” including “simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises.” [United States Secret Service, 2002] According to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, in 2000 and 2001 the use of airplanes by terrorists in suicide missions is “part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] Also, the Secret Service is mandated to create capabilities for achieving “airspace security” over NSSEs. [US Congress, 3/30/2000 ] But whether it has such capabilities already in place around Washington is unknown. Though there are only about four or five NSSEs each year, preparations also happen to be underway in New York for another possible NSSE (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Homeland Security, 7/9/2003; US Department of Homeland Security, 11/8/2004] The IMF/World Bank event will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks. [CBS News, 9/17/2001]
Judy Martz. [Source: Publicity photo]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. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 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; State Government News, 10/2001 ] According to the New York Times, “One of the day’s main seminar topics was how to prepare for terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 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. [Stateline (.org), 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. [Stateline (.org), 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. [State Government News, 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. [Stateline (.org), 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. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 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.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 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. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
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
FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Source: Bill Koplitz / FEMA ]The “Central Locator System” at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, DC, begins determining the locations of key government officials. Senior government officials were in numerous locations around the country and the world when the terrorist attacks began this morning (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But in response to the attacks, FEMA headquarters begins to “spin into action,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will later write, and the Central Locator System starts “to figure out precisely where each official [is].” [Graff, 2017, pp. 342-343] The Central Locator System is a little-known office of FEMA, which tracks presidential successors—a line of officials who could take over if the US president dies, resigns, or is removed from office. It ensures that key government officials can be located during all emergency and non-emergency conditions. It monitors their whereabouts around the clock and is ready to take them away from their regular lives at a moment’s notice if necessary. [New York Times, 6/29/1982; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1/2009, pp. 88 ; Politico Magazine, 9/21/2016; Graff, 2017, pp. xvii-xviii]
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]
Stephen DeBlasio. [Source: Jocelyn Augustino / FEMA]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) establishes a temporary headquarters from which to operate at Camp Kilmer, an Army base near Edison, New Jersey, in place of its office in Lower Manhattan. [9/11 Commission, 3/15/2004 ; Graff, 2017, pp. 344] FEMA’s Region II office is at 26 Federal Plaza, several blocks north of the World Trade Center. After the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), communications there “almost instantly” became a problem and “compromised the ability” of the office to operate, according to Richard Ohlsen, one of the office’s employees (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] Perhaps due, at least partly, to this loss of communications, at some unspecified time a temporary Region II headquarters is subsequently set up away from the city. Arrangements to establish this temporary headquarters are made by Stephen DeBlasio, director of the Administration and Resource Planning Division for Region II. DeBlasio is currently away from New York, in the Virgin Islands for a conference. Immediately after being notified of the crashes at the WTC, he establishes communications from his location in the Virgin Islands. His “first order of business,” he will later recall, is then “to set up a site at Edison, New Jersey, as a temporary FEMA Region II headquarters.” This site is at Camp Kilmer, where FEMA has long maintained space. DeBlasio has 25 phone lines installed there, in addition to the four lines already in place at the site. He also initiates the setting up of a field disaster office at Camp Kilmer, which would be able to accommodate 1,000 people. [9/11 Commission, 3/15/2004 ; Graff, 2017, pp. 344] FEMA’s Region II subsequently deploys members of its emergency response team to various locations, but most of the members go to the site in New Jersey, according to Marianne Jackson, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer. [Urban Hazards Forum, 1/2002] The temporary headquarters at Camp Kilmer is apparently only in use for a relatively short time. After he leaves the Virgin Islands on the afternoon of September 12, DeBlasio will learn that FEMA’s operations for New York have been moved back to the Region II office at 26 Federal Plaza, even though communications there are still out. [9/11 Commission, 3/15/2004 ]
The exterior wall on the east side of the World Trade Center’s South Tower apparently bows before the building collapses. The first inquiry into the collapse, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that the perimeter walls bow outward. “Expansion of floor slabs and framing results in outward deflection of columns and potential overload,” the investigation concludes. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-25] However, a subsequent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the east wall of the South Tower bows inward. In places the wall is said to bow inward by between seven and nine inches at floor 80, and NIST interprets this bowing to mean that the floors must be sagging. NIST will find that the sagging and bowing are two of the seven major factors that led to the collapse of each tower, as the bowing walls are no longer able to support their share of the buildings’ weight, causing the buildings to tilt and the upper sections to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 43-46, 87] A wall in the North Tower also apparently bows before the building collapses (see 10:23 a.m. September 11, 2001).
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).
Jay Kopstein. [Source: Jay Kopstein]Richard Ohlsen, an employee at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region II office in Lower Manhattan, goes to the headquarters of the New York Police Department (NYPD), but is initially denied entry into the building and, once inside, experiences various difficulties as he tries to respond to the terrorist attacks. Following the second crash at the World Trade Center, the FEMA office was unable to communicate with Office of Emergency Management personnel in WTC Building 7 and so Ohlsen was told to go to WTC 7 to act as a liaison there (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). As he was on his way out, though, the South Tower of the WTC collapsed (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).
FEMA Employee Is Denied Entry into the Police Headquarters - Consequently, instead of going to the WTC site, Ohlsen heads to the command center at NYPD headquarters, at One Police Plaza. When he arrives at NYPD headquarters, however, officers refuse to let him in because they do not recognize his FEMA identification as being official. Fortunately, Jay Kopstein, an inspector with the NYPD who happens to be passing by, recognizes him and takes him up to the command center.
Employee Lacks Priority Access to the Phone Network - Ohlsen’s problems continue, however, after he arrives there. Ohlsen does not have with him a special GETS (Government Emergency Telecommunications Service) phone card, which gives government and emergency workers priority to make phone calls during a crisis. Consequently, when he wants to reach FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, he has to contact it through the normal collect call procedures, even though this is a national emergency. And when he does get through, he is told that responsibility for dealing with the attacks in New York has been transferred to FEMA’s Region I office in Massachusetts, as part of the agency’s standard continuity of operations procedures, and so all requests are meant to go through there.
Officials Refuse to Open an Equipment Cache - Ohlsen also runs into difficulty when he asks for an equipment cache that contains personal protective gear and search and rescue equipment for New York City’s urban search and rescue team to be opened. He is incredulous when, in light of the current situation, officials with the New York City Fire Department, which maintains the cache, refuse his request, supposedly because no one from the federal government has authorized the use of the equipment. Ohlsen apparently persists and eventually gets the cache opened, since he will later describe this setback as “the first problem he was able to resolve” after arriving at the command center. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ; Graff, 2017, pp. 343-344]
The exterior wall on the south side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower apparently bows before the building collapses. The first inquiry into the collapse, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that the perimeter walls bow outward (see (9:21 a.m.-9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001)). However, a subsequent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the south wall of the North Tower bows inward. In places the wall is said to bow inward by approximately 55 inches at floor 97, and NIST interprets this bowing to mean that the floors must be sagging. NIST will find that the sagging and bowing are two of the seven major factors that led to the collapse of each tower, as the bowing walls are no longer able to support their share of the buildings’ weight, causing the buildings to tilt and the upper sections to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 32-34, 87]
Damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7. [Source: Arquelio Galarza]World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) suffers some damage, caused by debris from the collapse of the north WTC tower, according to later official reports. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 16]
WTC 7 Undamaged by South Tower Collapse - WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located 370 feet north of the North Tower (WTC 1). In the final report of its investigation into WTC 7’s collapse, published in November 2008 (see November 20, 2008), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state that although a few windows on the lower floors of WTC 7’s south face were broken when the South Tower (WTC 2) collapsed at 9:59 a.m. (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), “None of the large pieces of debris from WTC 2 hit WTC 7, because of the large distance between the two buildings,” and there is “no evidence of structural damage to WTC 7” as a result of the South Tower’s collapse.
Debris Reportedly Damages Exterior Columns - However, when the North Tower collapses (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), some fragments of debris are “forcibly ejected” from it, and travel “distances up to hundreds of meters.” According to NIST, pieces of this debris “hit WTC 7, severing six columns on floors 7 through 17 on the south face and one column on the west face near the southwest corner.” NIST will add that the debris also causes “structural damage between floor 44 and the roof,” and breaks a large number of windows on WTC 7’s south face.
Building Core Undamaged - However, NIST will state, based on “photographic evidence, witness accounts, and engineering judgment, it is likely that the structural damage (steel and floor slabs) did not penetrate beyond the perimeter of the building core. At the southwest corner, the structural damage extended only about one-third of the distance from the exterior wall to the building core.” NIST will comment, “Compared to the airplane impact damage to the WTC towers, there was relatively little damage to the interior of WTC 7.” There is also “no superficial or structural damage” to WTC 7’s north and east faces. And the sprayed fire resistive material that has been applied to the building’s steel columns, girders, and beams is only damaged in the “immediate vicinity of the WTC 1 debris impact.” NIST will admit, however, that there are “uncertainties” in its accounting of the events leading up to the collapse of WTC 7, because “the remains of all the WTC buildings were disposed of before Congressional action and funding was available for [its] investigation [of the WTC collapses] to begin” (see Shortly After September 11, 2001 and September 12-October 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 15-16]
FEMA Describes WTC 7 Damage - According to an earlier report on the collapse of WTC 7, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002), at that time, the “extent and severity of the resulting damage to WTC 7” when the North Tower collapses “are currently unknown.” But based on “photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts,” it is “assumed that the south side of the building was damaged to some degree.” FEMA’s report will state: “It does not appear that the collapse of WTC 1 affected the roof, or the east, west, and north elevations of WTC 7 in any significant way. However, there was damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7 at approximately floors 8 to 20, 24, 25, and 39 to 46.” The report will add: “According to firefighters’ eyewitness accounts from outside of the building, approximately floors 8-18 were damaged to some degree. Other eyewitness accounts relate that there was additional damage to the south elevation.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16, 5-20]
Structural Damage Not Responsible for Collapse - WTC 7 will collapse at 5:20 p.m. this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] However, NIST will conclude that the structural damage the building suffers plays no role in causing it to come down. NIST will state, “Other than initiating the fires in WTC 7, the damage from the debris from WTC 1 had little effect on initiating the collapse of WTC 7.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxvii] WTC 7 suffers fires on some floors, which are reportedly initiated by debris from the collapse of the North Tower (see (10:28 a.m.-5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). According to NIST, it is these fires, “rather than the structural damage that resulted from the impacts” of debris, which “initiated the building’s collapse.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008]
World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) suffers fires on several floors, some of which last until 5:20 p.m., when the building collapses. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008] WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located just north of the Twin Towers. It is damaged when the north WTC tower (WTC 1) collapses at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 2, 16]
Fires Started by Collapse Debris - Two official reports on the collapse of WTC 7 will tentatively conclude that fires in this building are initiated by debris that is ejected when the North Tower collapses (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). In a 2002 report (see May 1, 2002), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will state, “It is likely that fires” in WTC 7 “started as a result of debris from the collapse of WTC 1.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-20] In a 2008 report (see November 20, 2008), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state, “Most likely, the WTC 7 fires began as a result of burning debris from the collapse of WTC 1.” However, NIST will add, “visual evidence of fires in the building was not available until around noon.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 18]
Fires Spread in WTC 7 - According to NIST, fires are ignited “on at least 10 floors” of WTC 7, but “only the fires on floors 7 through 9 and 11 through 13 grew and lasted until the time of the building collapse.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxvi] NIST will state, “Early fires were seen on the southwest corner of floors 19, 22, 29, and 30 shortly after noon,” but “These were short-lived.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 51] The fires on floors 7 to 9 and 11 to 13, however, “grew and spread, since they were not extinguished either by the automatic sprinkler system or by [the New York City Fire Department], because water was not available in WTC 7.” Fires are “generally concentrated on the east and north sides of the northeast region beginning at about 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 21] The fires on floors 7 to 9 and 11 to 13 have “characteristics similar to those that have occurred previously in tall buildings,” according to NIST, and “Their growth and spread [are] consistent with ordinary building contents fires.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxvi] These fires are “fed by combustibles (e.g., desks, chairs, papers, carpet) that were ordinary for commercial occupancies.” However, NIST will point out, there is “no evidence that the fires spread from floor to floor, except, perhaps, just prior to the collapse of the building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 51-52]
Limited Evidence Available - Both FEMA and NIST will admit that their accounts of the fires in WTC 7 are based upon imperfect evidence. In its report on the WTC collapses, published in May 2002, FEMA will note, “Currently, there is limited information about the ignition and development of fires at WTC 7.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-20] In the final report of its investigation of the collapse of WTC 7, NIST will point out that “available images showing fires in WTC 7 did not allow the detailed description of fire spread that was possible for the WTC towers.” The report will add: “It must be kept in mind that [NIST’s] fire observations were based on images of the exterior faces, which provided little indication about the behavior of fires well removed from the exterior walls. It is likely that much of the burning took place beyond the views of the windows.” But, the report will state, “[T]here was sufficient information to derive general descriptions of fire ignition and spread on various floors of the building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 18]
NIST Blames Fires for Collapse - WTC 7 collapses at 5:20 p.m. this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). In late 2008, at the end of its investigation into WTC 7’s collapse, NIST will blame the fires WTC 7 suffers for causing its collapse (see August 21, 2008 and August 21, 2008). NIST will state: “The heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand, leading to a chain of events that caused a key structural column to fail. The failure of this structural column then initiated a fire-induced progressive collapse of the entire building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxvi-xxxvii] However, critics will dispute this conclusion, instead blaming explosives for the collapse (see August 21, 2008). [New York Times, 8/21/2008] FEMA will offer no firm conclusions about the possible role fires play in causing WTC 7 to collapse. In its 2002 report it will state, “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-31]
The team studying the WTC collapses for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will later observe that the antenna on WTC 1 began to fall before the exterior of the building: “Review of videotape recordings of the collapse taken from various angles indicates that the transmission tower on top of the structure began to move downward and laterally slightly before movement was evident at the exterior wall. This suggests that collapse began with one or more failures in the central core area of the building.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-27] In a program featuring some members of the FEMA/ASCE team, the BBC will comment: “The mast was directly supported by the tower’s inner core. The way it fell suggests it was failure of the inner core that began the collapse, whereas in the South Tower it had been the outer walls.” [BBC, 3/7/2002]
Joseph Allbaugh. [Source: Greg Schaler / FEMA]Joseph Allbaugh, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is flown back to Washington, DC, after leaving a major conference he has been attending in Montana. [State Government News, 10/2001 ; CNN, 10/4/2001; 119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] Allbaugh was one of hundreds of emergency management officials from around the US attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in Big Sky, Montana, which began on September 8 and was originally scheduled to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). He was the keynote speaker at the conference, and in his speech the previous day, September 10, talked about his focus on improving capabilities and preparing for disaster. [National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Allbaugh Sees Second Attack on TV - Allbaugh will later recall that on this morning, he “turned on CNN” and “actually saw the second plane hit the tower.” He will comment, “I thought it was a movie clip,” but then “reality started sinking in.” When he learned that the plane was the second to have hit the World Trade Center, he knew “immediately it was terrorism.” [CNN, 10/4/2001] Allbaugh went into the meeting he was due to attend and announced: “You all will have to excuse me. I have more pressing matters.” [Associated Press, 9/8/2002] He was then one of the first to leave the NEMA conference. [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Conflicting Accounts of Flight - Allbaugh is subsequently flown back to Washington, although there are conflicting accounts of his journey. Allbaugh will later recall that after leaving the conference, he moved on to the city of Bozeman, Montana, and then “waited a couple of hours for a plane.” Finally, he will say, a KC-135 military tanker plane flies him back to the capital. [CNN, 10/4/2001] According to another account, Major Rick Gibney, a pilot with the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, was originally tasked with flying Allbaugh home in his F-16 fighter jet, but, instead, an Air Force C-17 cargo plane is diverted to transport the FEMA director back to Washington. [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001] But the Gainesville Sun will report that Allbaugh initially headed out from the conference with Craig Fugate, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Fugate rented a car to drive back to Florida and Allbaugh joined him as a passenger. Allbaugh was then dropped off in Missouri, from where he is flown back to Washington. [Gainesville Sun, 10/22/2005] Other emergency management officials that were at the NEMA conference are also flown home on military aircraft throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ; Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001]
Allbaugh Joins President and Others at the White House - Allbaugh will recall that his flight to Washington takes four and a half hours. After arriving back in the capital, he heads directly to the White House, where he spends the evening with the president, vice president, and many others. [CNN, 10/4/2001] It is unclear when exactly Allbaugh arrives in Washington, though he will be at the White House by 7:15 p.m., when he gives a press briefing. [White House, 9/11/2001]
Allbaugh in Charge of Responding to Domestic Terrorist Attacks - In May this year, President Bush put Allbaugh, as FEMA director, in charge of “consequence management” in response to any terrorist attacks in the United States. Allbaugh was charged with creating an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate the government’s response to any such attack (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2001] FEMA plays an important part in the government’s response to the attacks in New York and Washington on this day. It puts its “federal response plan” into effect, which involves coordinating with 28 other federal agencies and the American Red Cross; it dispatches eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the rubble of the WTC; and it has four urban search and rescue teams sifting through the remains of the crash at the Pentagon. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]
John Bridgeland. [Source: White House]John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and two other government officials head to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, DC, where they discuss the government’s domestic response to the day’s terrorist attacks with FEMA officials. In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, Bridgeland has been talking about the federal government’s domestic response to the attacks with Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, and the two men have identified several questions that need to be answered. They want to know, in particular, how FEMA is responding. Bolten instructs Bridgeland to go to the White House Situation Room, grab Gary Edson, the deputy national security adviser, and then go with him to visit FEMA. Bridgeland and Edson are joined by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the director for combating terrorism on the National Security Council, and the three of them then head to FEMA headquarters.
FEMA Is a 'Blur of Activity' - Joseph Allbaugh, the director of FEMA, is currently away from Washington, having been at a conference in Big Sky, Montana (see September 8-11, 2001). But when they arrive at the headquarters, Bridgeland, Edson, and Gordon-Hagerty find the FEMA response to the attacks is already under way and Allbaugh’s staff is “a blur of activity.” Their dozens of questions are answered in detail by FEMA officials, led by Liz DiGregorio, the agency’s chief of staff.
FEMA Officials Describe Their Response to the Attacks - The FEMA officials, according to Bridgeland, say: “They had activated emergency operations to the highest level and had dispatched urban search and rescue teams, disaster medical teams, and disaster mortuary teams to New York and the Pentagon. They had deployed mobile emergency communications systems and were creating staging areas on the ground to manage the emergency response. They were also thinking ahead to what they should do to meet recovery needs—such as providing grants to first responders, public assistance grants, temporary housing, crisis counseling, help with funeral expenses, disaster unemployment assistance, and more.” The FEMA officials talk about using the US Army Corps of Engineers to help New York City remove debris, and they are considering ways of increasing the capacity of hospitals in New York. When the three White House officials leave FEMA headquarters, Bridgeland takes with him the “Emergency Declaration for the Release of Federal Aid to New York and Washington” for President Bush to sign. When they arrive back at the White House, Bridgeland gives this document to the staff secretary, who controls “all of the paper flow into the president.” [Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 6-8]
Members of Massachusetts Task Force 1 at Ground Zero. [Source: Massachusetts Task Force 1]The first two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urban search and rescue teams arrive in New York in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The teams, Massachusetts Task Force 1 and Pennsylvania Task Force 1, are among the initial eight task forces from around the United States that were activated by FEMA to help search for victims of the attacks in New York. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001; Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002] Both were activated this morning. [Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue, 2001 ; Government Executive, 9/1/2002]
Task Forces Set Up 'Base of Operations' - Around late afternoon to early evening, 62 members of Massachusetts Task Force 1 and 72 members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 set off for New York. [Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue, 2001 ; Boston Herald, 9/12/2001; North County News, 9/4/2002] After encountering long delays in the traffic in and around the city, they arrive at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan at around 10:30 p.m. There, they set up a base of operations, which is the area where task forces set up their command center and equipment cache, along with sleeping, food service, and personal hygiene areas for their members. After a few hours of rest, members of the task forces will undertake preliminary rescue operations at between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on September 12.
Six More Task Forces Subsequently Arrive - Later on September 12, and on September 13, the two task forces will be joined by Ohio Task Force 1 and Indiana Task Force 1. On September 14, the final four of the initial eight urban search and rescue teams activated by FEMA after the terrorist attacks will arrive at the WTC site. These are Missouri Task Force 1, California Task Force 1, California Task Force 6, and California Task Force 7. After being flown to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, these four teams will make their way to New York by ground transportation. [Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002]
Search and Rescue Teams Deployed to Pentagon - FEMA’s urban search and rescue teams consist mainly of local emergency services personnel, and include engineers, medical personnel, and specially trained search dogs. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001] Four of these teams have been deployed to the Pentagon, to search for victims there. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; Government Executive, 9/11/2001] And FEMA sent an “advance element team” to the WTC site earlier in the day. [White House, 9/11/2001] FEMA’s operations in response to the attacks also include monitoring the air quality following the release of asbestos from the WTC and the Pentagon, finding a place to dispose of rubble, and providing counseling for families and rescue workers. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
W. Gene Corley. [Source: ASCE]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its contractor, Greenhorne and O’Mara, Inc., from Greenbelt, Maryland, begin putting together a Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), to conduct a formal analysis of the World Trade Center collapses, and produce a report of its findings. FEMA routinely deploys such teams following disasters, like floods or hurricanes. The 23-member BPAT team set up at the WTC collapse site is assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and headed by Dr. W. Gene Corley of Construction Technologies Laboratories in Skokie, Illinois. Corley was previously the principal investigator for FEMA’s study of the Murrah Building, in Oklahoma City in 1995. [New Yorker, 11/12/2001] BPAT team members are based nationwide and have to communicate with each other mostly by phone, as they continue with their regular jobs. While some of them are being paid for their efforts, others are working on the investigation voluntarily. They are told not to speak with reporters, under threat of dismissal from the team, supposedly because of the delicacy of the subject with which they are dealing. The BPAT team receives $600,000 of funding from FEMA, plus approximately $500,000 in ASCE in-kind contributions. [New York Times, 12/25/2001; Associated Press, 1/14/2002; US Congress, 3/6/2002] The team will have great difficulty accessing the collapse site and evidence they want to see (see March 6, 2002). They will be unable to get FEMA to obtain such basic data as detailed blueprints of the WTC buildings. FEMA will also refuse to allow them to make appeals to the public for photos and videos of the towers that might aid their investigation. Bureaucratic restrictions will often prevent them from making forensic inspections at Ground Zero, interviewing witnesses, or getting important evidence, like recorded distress calls from people who were trapped in the towers. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 330] The end product of their investigation is the FEMA World Trade Center Building Performance Study, released in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002).
After arriving at the Pentagon on September 11 (see 9:42 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FBI is involved in removing bodies and body parts from the crash site. It works closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams and fire department Technical Rescue Teams (TRT). Members of these teams hunt through the debris, searching for survivors. When they find bodies or body parts, they call upon the FBI to photograph, number, and tag these remains. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-54 ] Though the Flight 77 passengers had been in the back of the plane at the time of the crash, most of their remains are found deep inside the building, near the end of the area traveled by the aircraft debris. Conversely, the remains of the suspected hijackers, who would have been at the front of the plane, are found relatively close to the front of the building, where the plane first impacted it. (However, these remains will be identified as belonging to the hijackers only through a process of elimination, as they do not match DNA samples of the victims of the attack.) According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, the location of the remains as such indicates that “the front of the aircraft disintegrated essentially upon impact but, in the process, opened up a hole allowing the trailing portions of the fuselage to pass into the building.” Journalist Steve Vogel concludes, “The fuselage in essence turned inside out as it passed through the Pentagon.” The search and rescue operations at the Pentagon come to an end on the morning of September 22, and the Arlington County Fire Department then turns command of the crash site over to the FBI. [Washington Post, 11/21/2001; Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 432 and 467]
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]
Late in the evening of September 13, 2001, search and rescue operations at the Pentagon have to be temporarily suspended when—after firefighters thought they had the crash site under control—a sizeable fire breaks out, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; NPR, 9/14/2001] The fire erupts in the pile of debris at the impact area where the aircraft hit the Pentagon, and is apparently caused by a “hot spot” that reignited. Fire commanders had been concerned about the smoke coming from the pile earlier in the evening, yet there is no engine available to extinguish any fire. There was an engine by the pile all through the day, but this left at the end of the day shift. Because of tightened security, the engine due to replace it is taking longer than usual to arrive. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 389 and 393] The order goes out: “We need everybody to evacuate. The building is on fire again.” Firefighters and workers for agencies such as the FBI and FEMA evacuate, either to the lawn in front of the crash site or the Pentagon’s center courtyard. Yet the fire appears to be contained in the rubble pile, with little danger of spreading. One worker questions: “So why are they stopping us? Why can’t we keep working?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 393-394 and 400-401] Eventually, a fire truck arrives to tackle the blaze. About two hours after it first flared up, the fire is out and recovery workers can continue their activities. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 394-395 and 401] Firefighting and other rescue operations were also significantly disrupted three times during September 11-12, due to false alarms over unidentified aircraft approaching Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
After USGS scientists complete their analysis of the dust samples collected in New York City (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-)
—which found asbestos, an “alphabet soup of heavy metals,” and an extremely high pH level (see September 20, 2001)
—the team emails the results to “all the government contacts the team had” including people at the EPA and FEMA, as well as to the federal emergency response coordinator. The EPA never informs the public of the dust’s high pH. “We anticipated that the results would have been shared with the people on the ground, those at risk, but it looks like the information never got to those who needed it,” Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 ] Some scientists will suggest that the dust’s high pH is a major cause of what will come to be known as the “WTC cough”
(see September 9, 2002).
A sample of WTC steel eroded and corroded due to eutectic formations. [Source: FEMA]The Journal of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (JOM) reports that the examination of a beam from the remains of WTC Building 7—which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—has revealed “unexpected erosion” of the steel. The article states: “The formation of the eutectic mixture of iron oxide and iron sulfide lowers the temperature at which liquid can form in this steel. This strongly suggests that the temperatures in this region of the steel beam approached around 1,000°C, forming the eutectic liquid by a process similar to making a ‘blacksmith’s weld’ in a hand forge.” [Barnett, Biederman, and Sisson, 12/2001] The New York Times will call this “perhaps the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation.” [New York Times, 2/2/2002] FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study, released in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002), will add that the same “unusual erosion patterns” have been observed in a sample of the remaining structural steel from one of the Twin Towers. It will state, “This sulfur-rich liquid penetrated preferentially down grain boundaries of the steel, severely weakening the beam and making it susceptible to erosion.” FEMA is unable to explain this phenomenon, saying, “The severe corrosion and subsequent erosion… are a very unusual event. No clear explanation for the source of the sulfur has been identified.… It is possible that this is the result of long-term heating in the ground following the collapse of the buildings. It is also possible that the phenomenon started prior to collapse and accelerated the weakening of the steel structure.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. C-1 - C-13] Despite FEMA’s call for further research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will make no mention of the eutectic formations in its final report into the WTC collapses, released in late 2005, following its three-year investigation. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 13]
The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office convenes a hearing on the environmental issues that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center. Hugh Kaufman, the EPA ombudsman’s chief investigator, remarks during the hearing that he believes the EPA, as well as state and city officials, have intentionally utilized inferior testing methods in order to avoid finding evidence that environmental conditions threaten public health. “I believe EPA did not do that because they knew it would come up not safe and so they are involved in providing knowingly false information to the public about safety,” Kaufman, says. “Not just EPA, the state and the city, too. We also had testimonies that all the agencies—local, state, and federal—have been consorting together every week to discuss these issues.” [CNN, 2/24/2002] Numerous experts testify at the hearing, criticizing the EPA’s response to the September 11 attacks, including David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH); Dr. Thomas Cahill, of the University of California at Davis; Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, an adjunct professor at Lehman and Hunter College, City University of New York; Alison Johnson, Chairman of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, among others. Government officials and employees were invited to participate—including officials from the EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Geological Survey, the governor’s office, state agencies, the mayor’s office and city agencies—but did not appear. “This is the first time this has happened in this type of hearing,” Hugh Kaufman, tells United Press International. [United Press International, 2/24/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/25/2002 ]
Entity Tags: Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, Thomas Cahill, Hugh Kaufman, US Geological Service, Jerrold Nadler, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alison Johnson, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Environmental Protection Agency
Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11
FEMA publishes a report on the agency’s flood mitigation efforts in Louisiana. In the introduction, FEMA notes the state’s extreme vulnerability to flooding. “In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation, Louisiana waterways drain two-thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana’s coastline. Despite massive improvements to reduce the impacts of severe weather in the last 100 years, flooding is a constant threat. The state of Louisiana has more flood insurance claims than any other state in the country.” FEMA’s report also says that Louisiana has more than 18,000 repetitively flooded structures, more than any other state. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 3/5/2002; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] A repetitive loss structure is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004]
FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study. [Source: FEMA]FEMA releases its report of the WTC collapses. It concludes, “[W]ith the information and time available, the sequence of events leading to the collapse of each tower could not be definitively determined.” On Building 7: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002]
In a memo to FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh, the agency’s inspector general relays concerns over the Bush administration’s proposal to merge FEMA, along with several other agencies, into the newly-constituted new Department of Homeland Security. “There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,” the inspector general writes. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
The Brookings Institution publishes a report warning that merging FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security will harm the agency’s capability to respond to natural disasters. “While a merged FEMA might become highly adept at preparing for and responding to terrorism, it would likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted to other tasks within the larger organization.”
[Daalder et al., 7/2002 ; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
FEMA calls a meeting with New Orleans’s city officials and civic leaders to address the well-known challenge of evacuating the many city residents who do not have cars, and to develop a plan to ensure that “no one [will be] left behind” when a hurricane threatens the city. During the meeting, FEMA officials present a computer simulation showing that a hurricane hitting southeast Louisiana could bring floodwaters all the way to the French Quarter, one of the highest points in the city. The officials also say that detailed surveys and census data reveal that many city residents do not own cars and therefore have no means to evacuate on their own. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]
One of the key variables in the computer simulations used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (see (October 2002-October 2005)) to explain the WTC collapses is the speed of the aircraft that hit the towers. However, there is no consensus on how fast the planes were traveling. The first estimate was contained in an initial research paper by engineers Zdenek Bazant and Yong Zhou, who stated that the planes were traveling at 342 miles per hour. [Bazant and Zhou, 1/2002 ] However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report said that the plane that hit the North Tower was traveling at 470 miles per hour, whereas the plane that hit the South Tower was traveling at 590 miles per hour (see May 1, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 31] NIST initially estimates speeds of 435 miles per hour for the plane that hit the North Tower and 497 miles per hour for the plane that hit the South Tower. These estimates closely match figures produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which finds speeds of 429 miles per hour and 503 miles per hour for the two planes. However, NIST is dissatisfied with these results and does a second study, which finds speeds of 466 and 545 miles per hour. It then uses speeds of 472 and 570 miles per hour in its severe case model, on which its final report is based. In this model, the simulation of the planes traveling faster means greater damage to the towers’ structure, making them more unstable. [Kausel, 5/2002 ; National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 152-165 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]
Congress passes the 2003 omnibus spending package which contains approximately $90 million to monitor the health of workers who took part in the World Trade Center recovery effort. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which controls the money, delays giving the funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of a dispute over how to distribute the aid. [New York Daily News, 6/10/2003]
Michael D. Brown, an Oklahoma lawyer, replaces Joseph Allbaugh as Director of FEMA. Brown, who was Allbaugh’s college roommate, joined the Bush administration in 2001 as FEMA’s general counsel at Allbaugh’s invitation. [Knight Ridder, 9/3/2005; Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005] Upon Brown’s appointment, Allbaugh says, “The president couldn’t have chosen a better man to help… prepare and protect the nation.” However, prior to joining the Bush administration, Brown apparently had little prior experience in disaster relief or prevention. From 1991 to January 2001, Brown worked as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association, earning about $100,000 per year. In this role, Brown was charged with ensuring that horse-show judges followed the rules and investigating any allegations of cheating. He was asked to resign in 2001 after accepting donations to a personal legal defense fund. [Boston Herald, 9/3/2005; New York Times, 9/7/2005]
FEMA is merged into the Emergency and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Michael D. Brown, the agency’s new head (see March 1, 2003), assures skeptics that the revamped agency will be “FEMA on steroids.”
[Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] FEMA’s Cabinet status disappears as it becomes one of 22 government agencies to be consolidated into DHS. According to the Washington Post,“For a time… even its name was slated to vanish and become simply the directorate of emergency preparedness and response until then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge relented.”
[Washington Post, 9/4/2005]
When FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see After March 1, 2003), FEMA loses control of more than $800 million in federal grant money to the Office of Domestic Preparedness, another part of DHS. Included in that sum are funds designated for emergency management preparedness grants, which fund states’ emergency management offices. After the merger, these preparedness grants are no longer given directly to the country’s state emergency management directors. Instead, they are given to state homeland security offices [Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2005] where they are generally designated for use in counterterrorism. [US Congress, 9/6/2005]
After FEMA is incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (see March 1, 2003), veteran FEMA employees complain of a massive “brain drain.” FEMA “has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership,” I.M. “Mac” Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, will tell the Washington Post shortly after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. At least one veteran FEMA staff member, Pleasant Mann, complains on the record about the changes FEMA is undergoing (see Mid-September 2004). [Washington Post, 9/9/2005] Local officials complain that FEMA’s new focus on terrorism threatens other necessary prevention programs. “With the creation of Homeland Security, [natural disaster prevention programs] have taken a backseat,” says Walter Maestri, emergency management director in Jefferson Parish. “To us, it is pretty obvious which is the greater threat. One is maybe, the other is when.”
[Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/8/2004]
FEMA’s headquarters staff is forced to cancel disaster training exercises because of budget cuts, according to 16-year FEMA staff member Pleasant Mann. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
An article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notes: “[Joseph M.] Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration’s organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation.”
[Sylves and Cumming, 2004; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
A survey of 84 FEMA personnel conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees finds that 80 percent of surveyed employees believe that since FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has become “poorer.” Sixty percent say that given the opportunity, they would transfer to another agency if the salary were the same. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Washington Post, 9/9/2005]
Former FEMA director James Lee Witt tells Congress: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, ‘It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.’”
[Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004; Reuters, 9/2/2005]
The General Accounting Office releases a report, titled “Reserve Forces: Observations on Recent National Guard Use in Overseas and Homeland Missions and Future Challenges,” which warns that the nationwide diversion of National Guard troops to Iraq could have a significant negative impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies. “[There are] urgent personnel and equipment shortages in units that have not yet been deployed,” the report says. “[E]quipment and personnel may not be available to the states when they are needed because they have been deployed overseas. Moreover, the Guard may have difficulty ensuring that each state has access to units with key specialized capabilities—such as engineering or medical assets—needed for homeland security and other domestic missions.… [U]nless DOD, Congress, and the states work closely to address these challenges, Guard units may continue to experience a high pace of operations and declining readiness that could affect their ability to meet future requirements both at home and overseas.”
[General Accounting Office, 4/29/2004 ; Associated Press, 5/13/2004]
Consistent with its strategy to outsource disaster management functions (see Summer 2004), FEMA solicits bids for a contract to develop a hurricane disaster management plan for Southeastern Louisiana. FEMA’s “Scope of Work” for the contract demonstrates that it is acutely aware of the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes, and of the inadequacy of current plans to manage a major hurricane effectively. According to the document, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness “believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.” FEMA describes the catastrophe that will result when a hurricane strikes Southeastern Louisiana. For example, FEMA writes that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster” that would cause “unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” It cites “various hurricane studies” predicting that “a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.” FEMA also expressly recognizes that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” are inadequate to effectively manage such a “mega-disaster.” The work specified in the contract, awarded to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) in early June (see June 3, 2004), is to be performed in three stages. During Stage I, scheduled for completion between May 19 and September 30, 2004, IEM will conduct a simulation exercise featuring a “catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana” for local, state, and FEMA emergency officials. (FEMA will pay IEM $518,284 for this stage (see July 19-23, 2004)) IEM completes this stage when it conducts the “Hurricane Pam” exercise in July 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). During Stage 2, IEM will develop a “full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” FEMA allocates $199,969 for this stage, which is to be completed between September 23, 2004 and September 30, 2005 (see September 23, 2004). The status of Stage 2 is currently unclear. [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ; Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ; US Congress, 9/9/2005] IEM apparently provides FEMA with a draft document titled “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan,” in August 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 ] The Times-Picayune will identify a later 109-page draft, dated September 20, 2004 [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] , and the Chicago Tribune will report that as Hurricane Katrina bears down on Louisiana during the evening of August 28, 2005, emergency officials are working from a functional plan, based on the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, that is only a few months old. The third stage relates to earthquake planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the Central United States. [US Congress, 9/9/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The Scope of Work specifies that the contractor must plan for the following conditions:
“Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Standing water and disease could threaten public health.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
“Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.”
[Department of Homeland Security, 2004 ]
Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union, writes a letter to Congress describing how FEMA has changed under the Bush administration. “Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded,” he writes. “Our professional staff [members] are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.”
[Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
For the second year in a row, FEMA rejects requests for pre-disaster mitigation funding in Louisiana (see 2003). Flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue, of Jefferson Parish, expresses shock. “You would think we would get maximum consideration” for the funds, he says. “This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it.”
[Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
The Bush administration shifts FEMA funds away from pre-disaster preparation and implements policies to promote outsourcing of relief efforts to private companies. FEMA staff members warn that these policies will slow response times in emergency situations [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
A FEMA document lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises designed to prepare federal response personnel for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes. “And even in both of those cases, they’re dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event,” reports NBC News analyst William Arkin. [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]
FEMA sponsors a 5-day exercise rehearsing for a mock storm, named “Pam,” that destroys over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forces the evacuation of a million residents. The drill is conducted by Innovative Emergency Management (IEM).
[Associated Press, 7/24/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] It is attended by about 250 emergency officials and involves more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations. As part of the scenario, about 200,000 people fail to heed evacuation orders. Pam slams directly into New Orleans bringing 120 mph winds, 20 inches of rain, 14 tornadoes, and a massive storm surge that overtops levees flooding the city with 20 feet of water containing a toxic mix of corpses, chemicals, and human waste. Eighty percent of the city’s buildings are damaged. Survivors crawl to the rooftops to wait for help, but rescue workers are impeded by impassable roads. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/23/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; New York Times, 9/1/2005; MSNBC, 9/2/2005; Associated Press, 9/9/2005] The flooding results in a massive number of casualties and leaves large portions of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] At the conclusion of the exercise, Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states: “We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts. Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies.”
[Reuters, 9/2/2005] As a result of the exercise, officials come to realize how difficult it will be to evacuate the city’s population in the event of a real hurricane. They expect that only a third of the population will be able leave before the storm hits, in part due to the fact that up to 100,000 residents live in households without a car. When asked how many people might die in such a storm, FEMA spokesman David Passey hesitates before stating, “We would see casualties not seen in the United States in the last century.”
[Times-Picayune, 7/20/2004] In December 2004, a 412-page draft report summarizing the exercise will be completed with detailed predictions of what the government should expect in the event that a major hurricane strikes New Orleans.
Predictions - Flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. “It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted,” the report predicts. More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, and more than two-thirds of them would be destroyed. Almost a quarter-million children would have no school. “All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless.” Casualties would be staggering: 61,290 deaths, 187,862 injured, and 196,395 ill. A half million people would be made homeless by the storm. Storm “refugees” would be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps, and cruise ships. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
“Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage. This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal (National Response Plan) protocols.”
[Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Top officials briefed - Ivor van Heerden, the Louisiana State University hurricane researcher who ran the exercise, reports that a “White House staffer was briefed on the exercise,” and thus, “there is now a far greater awareness in the federal government about the consequences of storm surges.”
[Louisiana State University, 2005] After the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, van Heerden will recall in an interview with MSNBC that the federal government didn’t take the exercise seriously. “Those FEMA officials wouldn’t listen to me. Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information.” When Heerden recommended that tent cities be prepared for displaced residents, “their response… was: ‘Americans don’t live in tents’ and that was about it.”
Follow-up - Another exercise is scheduled the following year, but it’s cancelled when its funding is cut (see 2005).
Pleasant Mann, a 16-year FEMA veteran, says in an interview with the Independent Weekly that changes made to the agency by the Bush administration have so severely harmed FEMA staff morale that people are leaving “in droves.” Part of the problem, he says, has to do with the people Bush selected to run the agency. “The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters like Oklahoma City and 9/11, and here are people who haven’t responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism. You know, there were a lot of people who fell down on the job on 9/11, but it wasn’t us… . Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies.” Mann also complains that FEMA’s “priority is no longer on prevention.” FEMA’s merger into the Department of Homeland Security has made mitigation “the orphaned stepchild,” he says. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]
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