Glenn Corbett Proposes Enhanced WTC Disaster Investigation Protocol and WTC Disaster Study Commission to House Committee

Washington, D.C., March 7-Glenn P. Corbett, assistant professor of fire science at John Jay College, New York City, and Fire Engineering technical editor, testified yesterday before the U. S. House of Representatives Committee on Science. At the hearing investigation on “Learning from 9/11: Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center,” Corbett stressed the need to investigate disasters “as a whole, following standard investigative procedures.” If we are to protect ourselves and future generations, we must learn the lessons of the disaster and apply them,” Corbett told the committee members. “Question that typically arise,” he noted, “are What happened? Why were so many lives lost? How can we prevent this from happening in the future?

Enhanced Disaster Investigation Protocol
He proposed that a single standardized model with a specific set of “adaptable” procedures for each type of disaster be developed for all disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), since it has responsibilities for disaster response and disaster mitigation, should initiate the development of an enhanced disaster investigation protocol, Corbett proposed. Obviously, he added, other federal agencies and private sector organizations with disaster responsibilities/interests should participate in the protocol’s development as well.

Such an enhanced disaster investigation protocol, Corbett explained, would use an investigative “lessons learned” approach to analyzing disasters, provide a detailed investigation “command structure” to establish which agency is in charge and the limits of its investigative authority, detail the responsibilities of each participating organization, and establish the specific types of disasters that will be investigated and the necessary resources needed for each type of disaster. In his presentation, Corbett also listed criteria that would ensure that the developed protocol would be functional, coordinated, comprehensive, and ensure the application of the “lessons learned.” Go to Proposal for an Enhanced Disaster Investigation Protocol for Corbett’s complete statement.

World Trade Center Disaster Commission
In another proposal presented at the hearing, Corbett stated that a commission should be established to employ the enhanced disaster investigation protocol to the World Trade Center disaster. Such a commission, he explained, “will allow for the various public and private research efforts currently underway to come together ‘under one roof’ and share information.” Sharing information, Corbett stressed, is especially critical when studying a disaster as complex as the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. “The multi-disciplinary aspects of the World Trade Center necessitate that the disaster be investigated in that context, allowing for the identification of interrelationships between the areas of concern,” Corbett added.

The Commission would” logically” operate under the auspices of FEMA, who would coordinate the effort and provide staff and facility support, including developing the final report, Corbett proposed.

Corbett proposed that the commission have a “core” of eight primary members, including a chairman, a vice chairman, and designated leaders from each of the following six focus areas: building design, building collapse, firefighting procedures, building evacuation, search and rescue operations, and building codes and regulations. All eight of the commissioners would meet regularly to share information, identify needs, and direct the commission’s overall activities.

The final report of the Commission, Corbett suggested, could including the following: identification of building/fire code provisions that need to be added/updated/deleted; procedural changes for the fire service response to high-rise and terrorist incidents; changes in evacuation procedures and egress capacity criteria.

Also testifying with Corbett were Robert Shea, acting administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, and Craig Wingo, director, Division of Engineering Science and Technology, Federal Emergency Management Administration; Dr. W. Gene Corley, P.E., S.E., American Society of Civil Engineers, chair of the Building Performance Assessment Team reviewing the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster; Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Arden Bemet, director, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Full statement: Proposal for a World Trade Center Disaster Commission.

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