THE INTERNET AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
On September 17, 2002, the New York City Council held hearings on the FDNY Response to September 11th. The Fire
Commissioner presented his statement to the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee. The hearings centered on the so-called McKinsey Report that had recently been made public.
I attended the
hearings as a private citizen and listened to the exchanges between the Commissioner and members of the City Council.
Much of the dialogue focused on the problems of radio communication during the horrific incidents surrounding the attack on the World Trade Center.
As a retired captain of police, I attended the
hearings because I had familiarized myself with both of the McKinsey Reports. The report on the FDNY has repeatedly stressed the need for inter-agency cooperation and the use of the Incident Command System by
the FDNY. The McKinsey Report on the NYPD did not mention the ICS specifically by name. For that reason, I felt as a private citizen that this omission must be brought to the attention of the City Council.
I presented a statement before the Council late in the day, so many of the Council members were not present.
However, the Chairperson, Yvette Clarke, never left her seat until all statements had been presented. During my years on the NYPD, I was a cop in the 4th Precinct and many times had been assigned to duty in City Hall. I had spent tours on duty during hearings in both the former Board of Estimate and the City Council chambers. I never saw a more dedicated Chairperson as Yvette Clarke. The citizens of NYC should know that.
I presented the following statement before the Council:
STATEMENT BEFORE THE NYC COUNCIL
Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Yvette Clarke, Chairperson
Hiram Monserrate (Also Member of Public Safety Committee)
James Sanders, Jr
Chairperson Clarke and members of the Committee,
My name is Edward D. Reuss.
I am making this statement as a private citizen. I retired from the New York City Police Department in the rank of captain with over 29 years of service. I hold a degree in Criminal Justice, St. John's University. I now present seminars at the Security Management Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the topic of workplace violence.
I am here to speak briefly about a problem that cries out for attention.
That problem is the critical need for the full adoption of the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM (ICS) by both the NYPD and FDNY. Emergency management is a key function of both the police and fire departments. We have been wounded by a determined and tenacious enemy. We are confronted by both domestic and foreign terrorists. We are all warriors in this battle. In the War on Terrorism, the axiom of Unity of command is now more vital than ever before. We have seen the horrific consequences when there is no effective Crisis Management in place. The domestic terrorism at Columbine High School in Colorado is an example.
The McKinsey Reports on the FDNY and the NYPD have been released and are available for public review. I read both reports with anticipation. I searched both reports for references to the need to
adopt the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM (ICS). I was disappointed.
Nowhere in the report on the NYPD were the words Incident Command System to be found. The McKinsey Report on the FDNY has many
references to that system.
Emergency management requires that ALL branches of emergency services be well versed in the same terminology.
The command concepts of Unity of command, span of control, and delegation of authority require that all be on the same page when it comes to such emergency management. The Incident Command System has been adopted by the United States Coast Guard, the New York State Emergency Management (SEMO), The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and many other jurisdictions. Software systems that are being developed by companies such as the E-Team are Incident Command System compliant. That is, they are tailored to the terminology and procedures of the ICS. Police and fire commanders with these computer systems have the ability to interface and communicate with each other with hand-held pocket PCs. They can communicate in real-time with each other and instantly share information. Police and fire commanders must train together in multi-agency command scenarios using such software.
Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, I went to Ground Zero and had the opportunity to observe how the Incident Command System was functioning.
FEMA was the lead federal agency
coordinating "consequence management". What stuck me was the presence of emergency management personnel from around the Nation.
The Incident Commander and his staff had established their Incident Command Post ten blocks north of Ground Zero in Fire Department facilities on Duane Street between Broadway and Church Street. FDNY Engine 7 and Ladder 1 occupied that location as well. The "ICP" was where all primary command functions were executed. However, the Incident "Base" was located at what was named "Hilton Base" in Mid-town Manhattan. The "Incident Base" is the location where primary logistics functions are coordinated. Are you confused by the terminology? Perhaps you believe that you are up to date in emergency management terminology? Unless you are versed in the language of the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM (ICS), you will be hard pressed to fit into the system.
We all know that the use of acronyms by those inside of any system identifies those who are active members of that system. Ignorance of those acronyms identifies those who are not. The terminology of
the Incident Command System (ICS) is filled with such acronyms. Would you know where the "RESTAT" unit was located?
Or the "SITSTAT" unit? Would you know what the acronym "C3I" signifies? Or do you know what "METTAG" refers to? The Incident Command System (ICS) also has its own terminology.
We must have both the police and fire department trained in the INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM and MULTI-AGENCY COMMAND CENTERS (MACC) where both agencies share information and have instant communication with each
other during emergencies. Unless we have interagency "C3I" (see cubed eye) command, control, communications, and intelligence, we are likely to repeat the problems of the past.
Edward D. Reuss
In addition to the need to adopt the Incident Command System, the NYPD and the FDNY must be provided with the best communications tools available.
As the publisher of an online magazine, NY COP ONLINE MAGAZINE WWW.NYCOP.COM I must maintain a subscribers list and communicate with thousands of users worldwide. I know firsthand, the speed and efficiency of the Internet. Email enables me to send messages to thousands of my subscribers who can provide me with feedback that was unknown just a few years ago. Who isn't online today? Who doesn't have email? Unless you have been living in a cave for the last few years, you should know how to use a PC. Even a novice knows about "instant messaging" and "chat".
Does the NYPD and FDNY have email in all the precincts and fire houses of this City?
If not, why not? Every commander should have the ability to communicate in real time with every other commander. Can such communications be safeguarded with encryption?
Why do I ask this question?
Police and fire commanders must become computer literate.
I would venture to guess that there are many who are not. The new systems coming online require that they become knowledgeable of how to use the Internet and incident command system compliant software.
I know from experience on September 11th, 2001 that traditional communications systems broke down after the attack.
Even many cell phones were inoperable during the hours following the attack on the World Trade Center. When 7 World Trade Center collapsed into a pile of rubble, NYC lost its command center. How did the Office of Emergency Management of the City of New York, the NYPD, and FDNY recover command and control and communications? The Internet and Incident Command System software enabled them to be online with an effective command center in Pier 92 within 24 hours of the attack!
I will present a report on how this was done in the next issue. Stay tuned.
Copyright © 2002 Edward D. Reuss
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