Emergency Management: Past Acts of Terrorism

It is necessary to note that September 11 can be regarded as the day that shaped the concept of terrorism, acts of terrorism, as well as emergency management. The attacks on the so-called Twin Towers are associated with the largest number of victims and responders to various emergency situations that occurred in the history of the USA. The overall number of people who died in the attacks on the World Center was 2,603 (Bullock, Haddow, & Coppola, 2015). It has been acknowledged that some authorities were unprepared to respond to the catastrophe of such a scale. For instance, the actions of firefighters have been associated with admiration and significant criticism (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2013). When analyzing the attacks’ aftermath, it is possible to focus on such areas as the care provided to victims and communication. These aspects are the most relevant as the former is one of the most important goals in emergency situations (wellbeing of people is the priority), and the latter is one of the key components of any operations.

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It is necessary to note that the media covered various details of the attacks that were happening on-air, so-to-speak. As for the communication of authorities, they were not as abundant. Bullock et al. (2015) note that President Bush made a brief statement about the attacks 45 minutes after the plane crashed into the north tower (which happened at 8:46 a.m.). Notably, the south tower’s management made an announcement about the attack some minutes after the crash claiming that evacuation was not necessary and people could return to their working places (Bullock et al., 2015). Many people gathered on floor 78 to discuss the event, and 15 minutes after the attack on the north tower, the south tower was hit by a plane between floors 78 and 84. People received the most information from the news. The mayor announced the evacuation from some parts of Manhattan two hours after the attacks. Mayor Rudy Giuliani answered reporters’ questions concerning the major details of the rescue operations (as well as attacks) at 2 p.m. (Bullock et al., 2015). As for the communication between authorities, it was characterized by considerable difficulties as the channels available were not sufficient (Haddow et al., 2013). When additional channels were launched, many people (medical staff and firefighters) did not know about them and tried to use the ones that malfunctioned. Malfunctioning was also due to the collapse of the towers and fires that started in the nearby areas.

As far as the care provided to wounded people is concerned, it is possible to note that it was quite effective. It was estimated that 2,261 people were injured during the attacks (Bullock et al., 2015). Numerous ambulances delivered injured people to local healthcare facilities. Over 100 service delivery sites were available. The lack of coordination was also a characteristic feature of the medical staff involved. The hospitals were overcrowded. Wang (2014) stresses that hospitals were overcrowded due to the overwhelming number of injured people only partially as many people who did not need actual medical care also went to hospitals as they saw them as safe places to stay. At that, the researcher notes that healthcare professionals managed to provide the necessary care to all in need. Psychological support was also provided. For instance, over 240,000 mental health contacts were made (Bullock et al., 2015). Importantly, the attacks and destruction of the towers were associated with the participation of many people who felt their skills and knowledge might be needed (Haddow et al., 2013).

To evaluate the efficiency of the operations carried out, it is critical to identify some challenges those responding to the emergency situation had to address. First, the primary challenge was the scale of the tragedy and the areas and people affected. Over two thousand people were killed, and more than two thousand people were injured. The towers, as well as a number of buildings that were in certain proximity (including Salomon Brothers 7), were damaged severely (Haddow et al., 2013). Fires started in vast areas, including underground fires. It was quite difficult to estimate the actual risks of fires that could (and did) start in different places. The communication channels were limited due to the vast area that was affected. The attack was unprecedented, and people, as well as authorities, turned out to be unprepared.

Irrespective of the challenges authorities faced, they managed to undertake numerous effective measures. One of these measures was associated with the delivery of care to the wounded. A number of staging areas were set up, and ambulances arrived there to take those who needed medical assistance. Another effective decision was to use helicopters to observe the overall situation (with the major focus on fires).

Nonetheless, many decisions made and steps are undertaken were ineffective. For example, radio communication was managed improperly, which led to the ineffective coordination of various rescue operations. The creation of additional communication channels was a helpful but untimely measure (Haddow et al., 2013). Importantly, people did not know about the availability of new channels and used the old ones, which made dispatchers unable to process information properly. The use of radio communication could be improved. First, it was possible to create a lot of additional channels shortly after the attack. It was also vital to notify people about the availability of the new channels, which was a very difficult task in the atmosphere of chaos and a great shock.

Nevertheless, it was possible to shut down all the channels for some minutes and start them with the notification about particular channels for particular authorities. It was also essential to ensure the availability of communication devices, especially when it came to firefighters (Haddow et al., 2013). Those coming at the scene had to receive a device if they did not have any. Another significant flaw in the response was the lack of coordination, especially when it came to firefighters. Many firefighters volunteered and came to the staging areas. However, chiefs did not know about their teams’ activities or even whereabouts. The coordination could be improved through the use of a simple system that implied the use of numbers for staging areas for specific New York firefighters’ units. Clearly, maps with these staging points and their numbers had to be available in different parts of the affected area. These strategies can be used in the future if similar emergencies occur.

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On balance, it is possible to note that the overall response to the emergency during the World Trade Centers’ attacks was effective with some areas that could be improved. The major flaw was insufficient coordination and chaotic radio communication that resulted in casualties that could have been prevented. The public received the most information from the media. It is necessary to add that the attacks were of an unprecedented scale, and people have never faced such emergency situations before. The lack of experience (or rather inability to foresee such a catastrophe) was the primary reason for some ineffective measures undertaken.

References

Bullock, J., Haddow, G., & Coppola, D. P. (2015). Introduction to homeland security: Principles of all-hazard risk management. Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Haddow, G., Bullock, J., & Coppola, D. P. (2013). Introduction to emergency management. Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Wang, W. (2014). The hospital in its community. In Y. Danieli & R. L. Dingman (Eds.), On the ground after September 11: Mental health responses and practical knowledge gained (pp. 19-24). New York, NY: Routledge.

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