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Report on Response to Sept. 11 Attacks Stresses Need for Greater Coordination - 2002-08-19

New York City officials have released two long-awaited reports assessing the performance of emergency service personnel during the September 11 attack on the city. The assessments stress the need for tighter command structures and improved communications in the fire and police departments.

The reports praise firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers for their dedication on September 11. But a series of recommendations are aimed at saving their lives in the future. More than 400 emergency workers, including 343 firefighters, died during the attack, while successfully evacuating more than 25,000 people from the World Trade Center complex.

The reports, five months in the making, were put together by the independent management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and top fire and police department officials.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the object of the reports was not to assign blame, but to learn from the events of September 11, in order to prepare for future catastrophic events.

"None of us whoever lived through 9/11 will ever forget the incredible bravery, professionalism and sacrifice of the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Police Department on that horrible day," the Mayor said. "Putting aside any thought of their own safety, our bravest and finest carried out what the McKinsey report describes as the most successful urban emergency evacuation in modern history."

Much was made in the weeks and months after September 11 of the fact that firefighters inside the buildings were not able to communicate with commanders on the outside. Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta says new radios are already being tested, and the department is looking for ways to use the police department's extensive communications infrastructure. He says efforts are also underway to implement another recommendation: improved coordination between the two rival departments.

"I think key in this report is the recommendations that talk about improved coordination with the police department and other agencies, and the fire department," he said. "I think, that coordinated response to catastrophic emergencies is absolutely essential, and is being addressed."

The reports also recommend more of the top officials of both departments stay at headquarters to command response, instead of rushing to the scene of a major incident. The fire department lost almost all of its most senior and most experienced personnel September 11. City officials say many of the recommendations are already being implemented.