NYTimes.com Article On 9/11 Communications Failures

By John Oram

Date: July 12, 2002

One of last weekend's major (overlooked) articles was in the New York Times about the 9/11 tragedy and their command information failures and communications breakdowns. (FYI: What pays part of bills around here are public safety related products - all of which are computer hardware & software controlled.)

Below is info from the first few paragraphs of the article. The link below still worked a few minutes ago in Opera 6.03 for Windows, Netscape 4.79 for Windows, and, Netscape 6.2 for Windows. If that fails I do have their printer friendly version saved as both an HTML & Word doc files.

I sent this article to a friend who is charge of "safety" for a large publicly funded California organization. His reaction was a an interesting forward to his organization's "safety" folks.

For me one of the interesting aspect of the article was the sociological aspects of the perceived (& shown to be a fact) differences in group behaviors of police and fire. IMO the paramilitary aspect of police organizations and their chain of command (& therefore control) keeps them from bunching up as often at an incident.

(I have been on a "ride along" where an "officer taking fire" radio message still kept our patrol car on the other side of Sacramento County. BUT, only with the disciplinary threats of a uniformed commander in the dispatch center enforcing those orders.)

An interesting statistical study would be to find out how many of the 343 dead NYFD had been in the military; in which branch; and, what did they do, if, they were in the military. I come across a lot of current law enforcement who, when they have a military background, were in some part of the military law enforcement during their original active or part-time duty. Thus, their first line of training was focused on following orders. Also it seems to be branch influenced too; the navy types seem to be less likely to wait (possibly because their normal geography is smaller?) than the ground pounders I spent time with.

IMO not only does public safety needs to have a response plan for an emergency; public safety needs to follow that plans "turn out" and know why they are holding manpower in reserve. Any of us who were in the military spent more than a few hours guarding some very low priority and often lonely locations. My point is when you loose your troops because they all got bunched up at a choke point; you need to develop new deployment plans and put in many hours of training to implement those new plans; including how to stand around in the reserve areas and be ready to relieve the front-line troops and not die while in that transition time of getting to the front-line.

The brief comments in the article on the lack of functional hand-held radio communications, which was the SAME problem as eight years previous at the same location with the same number of potential civilian casualties, is obviously a fiasco of major proportions with sufficient blame to be spread around to: the vendors, staff who wrote the radio systems specifications, staff who did the testing, and, the purchasing folks who chopped up those specifications and were overly influenced by cost, management's political infighting, and, the vendors lobbying of politician types.


July 7, 2002

9/11 Exposed Deadly Flaws in Rescue Plan


"... From the first moments to the last, however, their efforts were plagued by failures of communication, command and control.

Now, after months of grief, both the Fire and Police Departments are approaching the end of delicate internal reviews of their responses to the attack. Those reviews have concluded that major changes are needed in how the agencies go about their work and prepare for the next disaster, senior officials say.

A six-month examination by The Times found that the rescuers' ability to save themselves and others was hobbled by technical difficulties, a history of tribal feuding and management lapses that have been part of the emergency response culture in New York City and other regions for years. ..."


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