NY Times: Some Firefighters Could Have Been Saved
Ten months after losing 343 members in the collapse of the
World Trade Center, the bad news was still coming for the Fire
Department of New York: Many of those firefighters could have been
saved, the New York Times reported in its editions of July 7.
Police warnings of the north tower's imminent collapse were never
received by firefighters, the newspaper reported, and many firefighters
in the north tower didn't receive FDNY's own evacuation orders.
Partially to blame: The same outdated radios and communications
problems that plagued response to the WTC bombing eight years earlier.
"Cut off from critical information, at least 121 firefighters,
most in striking distance of safety, died when the north tower fell,"
the Times reported. "Rescuers' ability to save themselves and others
was hobbled by technical difficulties and 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."
According to the Times report:
• Police and fire commanders never talked to each other during the 9/11 crisis;
• The fire department's radio system failed in exactly the same way it had during the 1993 WTC response;
• Most firefighters in the north tower were unaware the south tower had collapsed;
• Commanders lost control as personnel rushed headlong to the scene and into the buildings, some in defiance of direct orders;
• So many resources went to the WTC that more than 400 EMS calls backed up without ambulances to answer them;
• Despite nearly $25 million spent to coordinate the city's response, no joint emergency exercises had ever been conducted.
"As a function of command and control, it was evident that the
fire department has no formal system to evaluate problems or develop
plans for multiple complex events," investigators from the U.S. Naval
War College, quoted in the Times, said after a December planning
exercise with FDNY. "It was equally evident that the fire department
has conducted very little formal planning at the operational level."
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