A Pentagon emergency expert will head the first federally-funded center in New York dedicated to preparing the city for massive terrorist attacks.
New York University's Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response stands a short distance from Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Under the leadership of a former member of the White House National Security staff, Colonel Thomas Daniel, the center will help research, plan, and prepare for emergency needs of up to one-million victims of a major catastrophe in the New York Metropolitan area.
Colonel Daniel is a career military officer who was in charge of responding to the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. He said the experience provided painful lessons about handling a major crisis. "Although there was a formalized effort at preparing for emergencies, there was no real substance to it because nobody ever thought that could happen. In fact, when I have given some presentations to different audiences, I brief it as the day the myth died, being two different myths, one that we could not be attacked in our own country, and the second being that the Pentagon was invulnerable. So that was a big shock," he said.
Fourteen-million dollars in federal money has been made available to the New York University Catastrophe Preparedness Center through the Department of Homeland Security, the agency President Bush established shortly after the Trade Center attacks.
Colonel Daniel said a lot of emphasis will be placed on correcting deficiencies in the city's disaster preparedness systems. "The essence of it is to address all the issues that would be involved in responding to a large-scale emergency. By large scale, I am talking about numbers that nobody has seen before," he said.
Among the center's programs already underway, is training New York City dentists to provide additional medical assistance in times of crisis, and teaching emergency services professionals how to respond to terror attacks through computer games that simulate real situations.