Rebuilding an Emergency Operations Center for NYC following 9/11
by Matt S. Walton III, Vice Chairman and Founder of E Team
Response to the World Trade Center Attacks
Over the course of a day, America changed. A plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. (EDT). At 9:05 a.m. a second plane crashed into the South Tower. The South Tower collapsed 45 minutes later and the North Tower collapsed at 10:30 a.m. Also, the U.S. Pentagon had been attacked at 9:38 a.m. On September 11, 2001 and in the weeks that followed, E Team's products, clients, and teammates were tested in ways that could never have been anticipated.
New York City emergency operations and first responders had to react and respond to this catastrophic event, implementing a solution that allowed massive coordination across multiple agencies. In addition, New York City also had to deal with the fact that their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) had been destroyed in the same attack.
The recovery efforts in New York City presented challenges that, until the events of 9/11, had seemed unbelievable. Although New York City had purchased the E Team incident management system that would provide the collaborative, interoperable solution that they needed, the software was not scheduled for installation on the city's EOC servers at 7 World Trade Center until the week of September 17th.
At 4:15 p.m. on September 11, World Trade Center #7 and the EOC ceased to exist. An alternate solution to coordinate and manage the response had to be deployed quickly. E Team rolled into action, creating a fully operational capability for New York City that was hosted on the company's ASP facilities within hours of the collapse. To activate New York's virtual EOC, E Team then contacted emergency managers in New York City with information on how to access the E Team system over the Internet.
Deploying a reconstituted EOC on Pier 92
Following the collapse of #7 WTC, in one of the most extraordinary technology deployments seen in recent history, New York City's Office of Emergency Management converted a warehouse space at Pier 92 into a fully operational EOC (see Figure 1). Building out the warehouse from the bare walls, the Office of Emergency Management created an operational space, ran T3 Internet lines and configured hundreds of workstations, settling into their reconstituted, E Team-enabled EOC on September 14, 2001.
Fig. 1. Photos of Pier 92 EOC
Over 150 different agencies and organizations were connected to the E Team collaborative platform including:
Working quickly, E Team deployed senior emergency management professionals and other personnel to support the new EOC 24/7, providing both an onsite presence in New York City and dedicated technical support from E Team's headquarters in California.
E Team system scales quickly to 1,700 users representing over 150 agencies
At the time of the attack, none of New York City's EOC personnel nor any of the visiting experts from around the world that had been brought to the relocated EOC had any previous training on E Team, and yet they were able to effectively take advantage of the system with as little as 15 minutes of training. Individual users on the New York system rapidly grew to more than 1,700, encompassing over 150 federal, state, and local agencies as well as public and private companies.
Due to the nature of the World Trade Center rescue and recovery efforts, one of the primary functions that New York City initially used was resource management and situation status reporting. Incorporated in E Team is ESRI mapping software, which allowed the city of New York to provide geographical information showing destroyed, damaged, and unstable buildings, emergency center locations, power outages, debris removal routes, and asbestos plume paths.
With continued use, E Team was also utilized to provide expanded functionality including incident reporting, asset tracking, action planning, and logistics that were needed by the city as part of the WTC effort as well as in other day-to-day operations.
Wireless command posts at Ground Zero and staging areas
To support operations at the recovery site, E Team deployed 12 wireless command posts on ruggedized laptops provided by Panasonic to facilitate activities at Ground Zero and at various staging areas. The laptops provided complete E Team functionality at the field level while simultaneously replicating data with the central EOC wirelessly through E Team's ASP servers.
Through these wireless command posts, volunteers entered their list of rescuer needs - ranging from work gloves and clothing to larger requirements such as dump trucks, trailers and additional personnel - into E Team's centralized, collaborative system. From there, requests were routed to the appropriate parties, whether it was to a warehouse on Manhattan's Lower East Side or to the National Guard for fulfillment.
With this process, E Team was used to track everything involved in the recovery efforts efficiently, allowing the monitoring of location of vehicles, people, and needed supplies by any or all emergency operations staffers in the EOC and on the ground (see example screen shots in Figure 2).
Fig. 2. E Team Screen Shots
E Team provided New York City and federal, state, and local agencies with interoperability and collaboration to perform the following tasks: 1) Emergency Operations Center relocation, mobility, and reliability; 2) Shutdown and re-launch of the air transport system; 3) Rescue and recovery coordination; 4) Incident reporting and management; 5) Status reporting; 6) Resource ordering; 7) Asset tracking; 8) Logistics management; 9) Situation updates; 10) Action planning; and 11) Multiple location organization status.
NYC E Team response technical achievements
Providing the emergency management software that New York City and all of the supporting agencies, non-profit organizations, and key private infrastructures used to manage the response to the World Trade Center disaster, E Team demonstrated five unprecedented technical accomplishments in creating a collaborative environment for analysis and response:
Other organizations used E Team to respond to the events of September 11, 2001
From the onset of September 11, 2001 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) needed to immediately access its already-implemented E Team system to assess the status of the air transport system. Many emergency managers in the country, including the Director of Emergency Transportation for DOT, were physically in Big Sky, Montana for the National Emergency Managers Association's annual meeting without access to any of their communication systems. Within an hour of the first tower assault, E Team brought a feed from the E Team system at the DOT into the Big Sky conference center through the Internet, providing those present with continuous situation updates. DOT subsequently used the system to facilitate the shutdown and re-launch of the air transport system, as well as to secure the other modes of transportation. The E Team implementation at the DOT is a multi-server, geographically redundant system with servers located in Washington, D.C. at the DOT headquarters and at the FAA headquarters in Oklahoma.
During the September 11 crisis, Macy's West activated their emergency operations to ensure a consistent approach to managing the emergency that was being facilitated at each store location. Historically, this information had been gathered via hard copy reporting and fax dissemination, which was incomplete and time delayed. E Team's Corporate Edition was used to assess status of personnel, facilities, and operations to help Macy's determine the proper course of action. E Team's integrated ArcIMS map system, which had already been enhanced for Macy's with their store location information, allowed users to place event or incident icons at the exact location of the incident. Maps that zoomed down to street level provided pinpoint accuracy and detail of Macy's facilities for emergency operations personnel.
In addition to these two activations, E Team systems were in use in numerous EOCs and jurisdictions across America.
Collaboration in the most extreme conditions
As the United States continues to address the challenges of homeland security, the implications of this emergency deployment are simple and compelling: collaborative solutions that facilitate interoperability between multiple jurisdictions can allow quicker analysis and quicker response. E Team delivers these needed tools for collaboration and is capable of encompassing the full spectrum of potential users, easily deployable, and proven effective and reliable under the most extreme circumstances.
From coping with the collapse of the World Trade Center to the deployment of a reconstituted EOC and the rapid training of more than 1,700 staffers on the ground, NYC staff proved that with technology support emergency personnel can respond and recover quickly in unpredictable and uncharted situations.
To see a Web-based demonstration of E Team's collaborative solution for incident management, go to www.eteam.com/demo.htm or call 877-546-7892, ext. 235.
About E Team
Founded in 1998, E Team is a provider of crisis management software, serving public agencies, private entities, and non-profit organizations of all types and sizes. E Team's collaborative software offers comprehensive functionality for the critical tasks necessary for applications including emergency management, homeland security, biodefense, business continuity, disaster preparedness and recovery, event management, and exercises. E Team is headquartered in Canoga Park, California.Check http://eteam.com/.
About 9/11/01 Attacks
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took the lives of 3,012 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. For more information about the attacks visit: www.9-11commission.gov, 911digitalarchive.org/ and www.teaching9-11.org/.
Some Questions for Analysis and Discussion
Editor's note: For more information check Kant, E., "Wireless GIS Solution Aids WTC Rescue Efforts," ArcUser Online, January - March 2002, URL http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0102/wtc1of3.html.
Please cite as:
Walton, Matt S., III, "Rebuilding an Emergency Operations Center for NYC following 9/11", 2003, at URL DSSResources.COM.
Annie M. Baker, E Team Public Relations, provided permission to use this case study on August 18, 2003. Baker's email address is ABaker@eteam.com or contact her at 928-854-6949. This case study was posted at DSSResources.COM on September 11, 2003, the anniversary date of the attack.
May we honor and remember those who died as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
This case study is provided for informational purposes only. DSSResources.COM makes no warranties, express or implied, about this case summary.