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Emergency Response Experts Discuss Lessons from 9/11

Emergency response experts are attending a three-day conference in New York to discuss lessons learned from the September 11 attacks. Officials have said better communication and training are needed to handle terrorist attacks in the future. U.S. officials are warning that additional terrorist attacks in the United States and on U.S. targets abroad are likely.

Emergency response experts from the United States and around the world have said those warnings underlie the importance of the conference called "Looking Back, Moving Forward."

In his opening remarks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said emergency response experts have a long way to go to prepare for terrorist attacks. He said they have to improve training and communication techniques.

But Mr. Bloomberg said experts will "swap ideas" and learn from the attack, which killed more than 2,800 people. "We are going to remember those that we lost and remember why we lost them, why they gave their lives. And we are going to, in their memory, do everything we can to build up our defenses and our ability to respond in the future," Mr. Bloomberg said.

In a frank discussion on mistakes made and lessons learned, former New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen said the fire department lost control of its firefighters after hundreds rushed from home to the center of the crisis at the World Trade Center.

Mr. Von Essen reflected on what should have been done differently on September 11. "I would absolutely try to get everybody to slow down. Get better control. We have a problem in the fire department in the city of New York of people being so dedicated and so interested in so wanting to be part of something of this magnitude that we had people there that were not working, people that could not possibly have had all the equipment that they should have had," he said.

Three-hundred-and-forty-three firefighters, including two of the department's highest-ranking officers, were killed when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after they helped many escape to safety.

Mr. Von Essen himself narrowly escaped death when he was called away from the command center inside the World Trade Center. In retrospect, Mr. Von Essen said the command center should have been established outside the site.

The head of the White House Office of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are scheduled to attend the conference later in the week.