Daily Kos: Two tales of 9/11 emergency reaction

Two tales of 9/11 emergency reaction
by lawnorder [Unsubscribe] [Edit Diary]
Sat Sep 11th, 2004 at 06:27:08 CDT

The United States had not suffered a disaster of the magnitude of September 11th in its recent history. Only the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, with a death toll of 6,000, generated a greater number of fatalities in the U.S. history of disasters... Hurricane Andrew ($30 billion), and the 1993 Midwest Floods ($19 billion) resulted in significantly lower monetary losses that the $83 billion in direct and indirect losses caused by the World Trade Center attack (GAO, 2002).

While NORAD, FAA and the nation's CinC froze and forgot their own regulations and procedures, the NY City emergency workers performed a model reaction to the same challenge.

Why ? Because of the very nature of those public institutions: Militaristic NORAD was incapable of improvisation and barely capable of following planned responses. NYC workers had been trained to be independent, to improvise and to adapt their plans to the disaster at hand.

This Diary will examine the crucial first 4-6 hours actions by those public safety bureaucracies and try to understand why such a radical disparity occurred.

IGNORAD The Military Screw-up Nobody Talks About

A lot has been written about NORAD's failure to send jets in a timely fashion to intercept the 4 hijacked planes. My favorite sites on this are StandDown.net - Exposing NORAD's Wag The 911 Window Dressing Tale by Mark R. Elsis who writes about "the elementary mathematical facts that the USAF F-15 fighters ordered to intercept were flying at only 25% of their speed and about the 35 USAF bases that were within range to respond to 9/11 but didn't and the IGNORAD site

Surviving the collapse of it's own Emergency Operation Center

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated by boat from lower Manhattan; telephone communication was, in large part, temporarily disabled in parts of the city due to the destruction to telephone lines and cellular phone towers; the city's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 7 World Trade Center was evacuated and eventually collapsed, necessitating the establishment of temporary EOC facilities;

In every way and at all points in time, it was possible to observe large-scale operations: the emergent waterborne evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from Lower Manhattan, the process of cordoning off the island's bridges and tunnels from incoming traffic, debris removal operation and associated search and rescue efforts, the health and safety policies and practices implemented at the collapse site, the security system at key response locations, and the management of spontaneous volunteers who converged to assist in response and recovery efforts

The activities listed above are all further instances in which NY City excelled in responding to the same emergency that paralysed NORAD, Bush, Cheney and the and US Air Force.

* lawnorder's diary :: ::

A test of Leadership

The WTC disaster offers the opportunity to study organizational response in a disaster characterized by large loss of life, high
levels of ambiguity, costly and deadly losses of emergency response resources, persistent perceived threats, and many emergent issues related to the complexity of the event and the lengthy emergency response period.

New York City area

The damage to the World Trade Center area necessitated complex site management, security, safety, and cleanup processes (while response and recovery activities overlapped) in ways that had not previously been implemented by any of the organizations involved. Organizations and individuals improvised, some more successfully than others, to meet the demands generated by these and other emerging challenges, often with very new and innovative results.

Planing for the Worst

Pre-arranged structures, planned actions and responsibilities, and acquisition of anticipated resources form the basis for decisionmaking in emergent environments.
At the same time, plans that claim to account for every contingency that disasters may present become "fantasy documents;" that is, documents that serve to show that planning has been done to [CYA] rather than necessarily providing justifiable assurance that the plan can fully anticipate every challenge that a disaster would pose (Clarke, 1999).

The need for Improvisation

The ambiguity and confusion that often accompanies large-scale disasters provides the need for IMPROVISATION... without improvisation, emergency management loses flexibility in the face of changing conditions. Improvisation and emergence, in addition to planning, are central to disaster management. Moreover, creativity and flexibility are important components of any effective disaster response.

In a disaster, improvisation must take place under increased time constraints and in environments that have a high degree of ambiguity. But improvising can be risky and it may prove worse than the emergency that required it.
When to use Plan, When to improvise ?

Quarantelli (1996) suggested several conditions that influence emergent action, including the perception of a need to act on urgent matters, a supportive social climate for collective action, relevant pre-crisis relationships, and access to resources.

NYC Planing & Improvisation masterpiece

This balance of planning and improvisation, which characterizes the organized response to major disasters, was evide[where a] highly organized and complex emergency management community faced an extremely ambiguous crisis accompanied by a demand for response resources that exceeded the community's immediate capabilities.

NORAD, FAA and the Deer frozen by Headlights Prez

Both NORAD and the FAA failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation and therefore failed to recognize their urgent need to act. The social climate at militaristic institutions like NORAD further damaged it's ability to react and improvise to collectively react to the largest emergency of the last 100 years. There were very few relevant pre-crisis realtionships, which were also damaged by a lack of a decentralized decision point and by turf wars. Bush was the ONLY person in the United States with authority to order the downing of a comercial plane, even in case of hijacking. When Bush failed to do so, NORAD and FAA had very little will to do so and allegedely even recused specific orders from the Vice President to do so.
All this prevented the use the immense resources the military and the White House from effectively using the vast ammount of resources they had at their disposal to prevent and diminish the 9/11 damage.

Catastrophe and the Public Service: A Case Study of the Government Response to the Destruction of the World Trade Center - Public Administration Review, Vol 62, Issue s1, pp. 24-32 (Abstract)

HASL_297dnlfile.PDF (application/pdf Object)



During the first 4-6 hours of 9/11 Bush displayed the leadership skills of:

Gen Patton 0 votes - 0 %
Abraham Lincoln 0 votes - 0 %
A pet goat 3 votes - 33 %
A head of lettuce 5 votes - 55 %
My 6 month old puppy 1 vote - 11 %

Daily Kos: Two tales of 9/11 emergency reaction


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