McKinsey Report Examines NYC Emergency Response to 9/11

The long-anticipated reports examining the response of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) were released this week. While they praised "the actions of FDNY personnel that saved lives," the McKinsey & Company reports included some strong criticism of the lack of interagency cooperation between the fire and police departments and the breakdown in communication between commanders and front line responders.

"This tragedy has reshaped our expectations about future threats and created a new urgency to increase preparedness," notes the introduction to the McKinsey report about the FDNY. In the report about the police department, McKinsey notes, "The extraordinary events of September 11 have caused a paradigm shift in the way U.S. and local law enforcement must contemplate emergency preparedness and response. We must now be ready for contingencies that seemed virtually impossible just months ago."

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta released the McKinsey reports, which were conducted on behalf of the NYPD and FDNY. The goal of the studies were to identify both the effective and ineffective aspects of the departments' responses, so that the city might be better prepared for large-scale emergencies in the future.

"The findings of the McKinsey report(s) illustrate both the strengths and weaknesses of the New York Police Department and Fire Department in handling large-scale emergencies, and provide significant opportunities for these vitally important agencies to improve their ability to respond to potential crisis situations in the future," commented Bloomberg on Monday. "Some of the report's recommendations mirror the initiatives launched by the NYPD and FDNY over the last few months to promote inter-departmental communication and coordination and protect New York City during catastrophic events; others deserve thorough consideration by the respective commissioners."

Kelly, with an obvious nod to some of the negative findings included in the report, noted, "None of the findings detract in any way from the remarkable heroism and life saving efforts by the police officers and firefighters who responded that day."

In its review of the NYPD's response to the attack on the World Trade Center, the McKinsey report noted that the objectives of the NYPD during a disaster are rescue, transportation, site security, investigation and citywide security. It notes that these categories were divided into a total of 16 specific tasks on 9/11, six of which "presented significant challenges," according to McKinsey. These included post-collapse search for and rescue of survivors; maintenance of on-site traffic access for emergency vehicles; establishing and maintaining inner and outer perimeters; policing immediate area of disaster scene; assessing and managing risks of hazardous materials and secondary attacks at incident site; protecting and evacuating sensitive locations around the city.

The report highlights the following areas for potential improvement:

  • Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of key NYPD officials during large-scale emergencies;
  • Enhancing mobilization procedures;
  • Efficiently providing and distributing equipment to personnel, improving intra-department and inter-department communications; and
  • Establishing a comprehensive emergency preparedness and response plan, which includes counter-terrorism training

The NYPD has already begun to address many of the issues listed in the report, and in addition has:

  • Created a counter-terrorism unit.
  • Expanded and enhanced the intelligence division.
  • Revised the command and operational succession plan.
  • Improved mobilization procedures.
  • Upgraded equipment for officers.

In its review of the FDNY's response to the attack on the World Trade Center, McKinsey identifies several opportunities for improvement in the emergency response capabilities of the fire department, including:

  • Improving the FDNY's internal and operational capabilities in emergency situations by utilizing its Operations Center to coordinate incident command and control throughout the city;
  • Creating specialized incident management teams;
  • Instituting effective staging and recall procedures;
  • Establishing mutual aid agreements with other agencies;
  • Improved and expanded planning procedures;
  • Scenario-based training;
  • Enhanced communications processes and technologies;
  • Flexible family and member support services; and
  • Effective coordination of the FDNY's emergency response plans with those of other agencies at the city, state and federal levels.

Since Jan. 1, the NYPD and FDNY have launched several initiatives and established various policies and procedures to facilitate inter-agency cooperation, coordination and communication during emergency situations. In addition to regular meetings between Kelly and Scoppetta, the collaborative measures include:

  • Assigning departmental liaisons for placement at the agencies' respective headquarters;
  • Establishing an interagency senior executive coordinating committee to review and resolve operational issues;
  • Placing FDNY chiefs on NYPD helicopters in certain emergency situations; and
  • Examining ways in which the NYPD's radio infrastructure might enhance the FDNY's communication system.

"Many people believe that more large terrorist attacks on the United States are a certainty. The president and Congress are seeking to increase the nation's preparedness through a massive reorganization of homeland security services. The state, the city and [the NYPD and FDNY] must also take steps to prepare for the future," notes the report.

To read the McKinsey report on the FDNY, go to www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/html/mck_report/toc.html. To read the McKinsey report on the NYPD, go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/pdf/nypdemergency.pdf.

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