Our detailed examination of the FDNY’s response to the World Trade Center attack on September 11 indicates that the Fire Department should focus its efforts to improve preparedness in the following key areas: operations, planning, and management, communications and technology, and family member support ….

Increase Operational Preparedness

We have seven recommendations for increasing operational preparedness, centered on establishing procedures and command and control structures that are flexible and can be quickly expanded in the event of major emergencies.

  1. Expand the use of the Incident Command System ….We recommend that the Department

    •Review all its procedures to ensure consistency with ICS principles.

    •Train all FDNY personnel likely to be involved in incident response in ICS principles, and continue this training on a regular basis.

    •Create dedicated, ongoing training programs for FDNY chiefs so that they are proficient in using ICS principles during large and complex incidents involving terrorism, chemical, biological and radiological materials, and attacks to critical infrastructure.

    1. Further develop the Fire Department Operations Center. This center, which now monitors and reports on daily Department activities, should be expanded into a fully functional emergency operations center. It should have infrastructure and communications capabilities to provide citywide command, control, and operational planning and support for interagency coordination during routine operations and major incidents.

      1. Create Incident Management Teams. These teams should be comprised of specialized, highly trained personnel who would be activated in response to major incidents. Each team member should have expertise in a particular aspect of incident management, such as operations or planning. We recommend establishment of two teams of 21 individuals to ensure around-the-clock coverage over a period of weeks.

        1. Deploy a flexible recall procedure. The FDNY should develop, deploy, and train its personnel in a flexible recall procedure that allows the Department to efficiently mobilize all or part of its off-duty personnel in case of emergencies or other needs. The Department should strictly enforce adherence to the recall procedure during training and actual recalls. Off-duty firefighters who are not activated by a recall or do not report to specified mobilization areas should not be allowed to participate in the response, if the circumstances allow. Those who fail to adhere to the recall procedures should be referred for additional training and/or disciplinary action.

          1. Seek formal mutual agreements for fire operations …. The Department should first assess the capabilities and compatibilities of neighboring public safety agencies to maximize effectiveness of any joint operations …. The agreements should also ensure that equipment and procedures are interoperable and that participants conduct regular joint training.

            1. Modify and enforce fire staging protocols ….

              •Use staging in all incidents requiring a third alarm or greater.

              •Train Fire Dispatch and firefighting personnel to follow strict communications protocols for communicating the designation and location of staging areas to responding units and enforce adherence to these rules on a day-to-day basis.

              •Assign chief officers to command coordinate staging areas. While the designated staging chief is en route to the area, the first officer responding to that area should perform these functions.

              •Strictly enforce adherence to staging protocols ….

              1. Expand haz mat capabilities and reevaluate other special operations capabilities. The FDNY has just one Haz Mat Unit, which it committed to the World Trade Center on September 11. That day, the Department would have been unable to respond quickly and effectively to another incident that required advanced hazardous materials capabilities …. We recommend that FDNY expand its haz mat capabilities and reevaluate its heavy rescue and marine operations capabilities.


              1. Enhance the Department’s planning and management processes. We recommend that the FDNY form a Planning Oversight Committee comprised of senior chiefs and commissioners that would lead to the creation of a formal Annual Plan and closely track and manage the performance of the Department and its bureaus throughout the year ….
              2. Expand and reorganize the Operational Planning Unit. This unit currently creates and maintains the Department’s standard operating procedures. We recommend that it be reorganized and its role expanded. The new unit’s first priorities should be to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of potential hazards to city locations. This assessment should include creation of an FDNY risk database, which would compile information on unique hazards at specific locations such as chemicals or radioactive materials. The risk assessment should lead to the development of preplans for managing emergencies at particularly high-risk locations.


              Firefighters and EMS personnel were hindered in their response on September 11 by failures and limitations of communications systems and processes, and technology. To address these challenges, we recommend FDNY proceed simultaneously on two tracks: 1) revamp the management process it uses to evaluate, acquire and deploy technology and communications equipment and protocols; and 2) immediately address several urgent communications and technology needs.

              … Among several communications initiatives, the Department should accelerate the throrough testing of the UHF portable radios it bought in 1999 …. In high-rises, it should pursue several initiatives. One is testing and deploying portable, mobile, or air-based repeaters …[and it] should develop and seek adoption of a change in the city building code requiring large buildings and structures—existing and new—to support reliable in-building communications by first responders … one possible solution could be installation of fixed, building-specific repeater systems.

              … Moreover, the FDNY should seek to work with the NYPD to understand whether and how the NYPD’s extensive citywide communications network infrastructure can be leveraged to support the FDNY’s communications needs ….

              The Department must provide chief officers on the scene of any major incident with critical information about the overall situation …. The Department should evaluate electronic command boards to replace the current magnetic boards ….


              The events of September 11 created a need for support services vastly greater than the Department’s capabilities. We recommend the Department establish a flexible infrastructure and process that would provide these services efficiently and reliably should such a large-scale need ever arise again …

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