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February 2002
CUNY Responds: Rebuilding New York
CUNY Alumnus/Prize-winning Journalist Reports from Islamabad, Jalalabad, Kabul
City Tech Students Envision Rebuilding St. Nicholas Church
U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins Mulls Emergency Service of Verse
John Jay College and FEMA Address Urban Hazards
Helping Students Write about Trauma
Biography of a Life Cut Violently Short
CUNY Law Practice In the Public Interest Since 9/11
Graduate Center 9/11 Digital Archive
Windows on the World Chef Returns to City Tech following 9/11
Walt Whitman Sums Up “Human and Heroic New York”
Inaugural Conference on "Women and Work"
For Alzheimer’s Patients Life’s a Stage
Kingsborough Center Incubator of Global Virtual Enterprises
Governor Proposes State Budget
White House Urged to Support Pell Grant Increase
President Jackson Named to Schools Board
Fine Way To Learn About Steinway

City College Scholar-Director Chosen Cultural Affairs Commissioner by Mayor

Claire Shulman Honored by QCC

CUNY Counsel Elected Legal Aid Society Chair

Law Dean Glen Honored by State Bar

“American Art at the Crossroads”—
April Symposium at Graduate Center

Challenging Summer for Students in Vassar/CUNY Program

 
 

John Jay and FEMA Address Urban Hazards

By Jerry Capeci
John Jay College

Gerald Lynch
John Jay President Gerald Lynch greeting attendees of the Urban Hazards conference.
Several hundred scientists, law enforcement officials, engineers, authors, academics, and other experts gathered at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on January 22-24 to discuss and analyze the dangers New York City and other urban areas face from the growing threats of terrorism and other catastrophic disasters.

Co-sponsored by Region II of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Urban Hazards Forum brought internationally recognized experts to John Jay in conjunction with FEMA's efforts to establish effective training and educational partnerships with leading institutions in the field of emergency management. The conference, planned a year ago and scheduled last summer, took on increased significance following the September 11 terrorist attacks.


The plenary sessions and freewheeling panel discussions among response professionals, researchers, and policymakers were followed by frank, lively Q&A's. More than 350 persons attended the conference, which was dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. Three experts selected at a September 10 planning committee meeting to take part in a panel discussion of the 1993 WTC bombing—Ray Downey of the NYFD, Doug Karpiloff of the Port Authority, and John O'Neill, a retired FBI Agent and current WTC Chief of Security—died the following day.

Deputy Chief Charles Blaich of the NYFD offering his narrative of September 11.
On the first day of the conference, after greetings by College President Gerald W. Lynch, Deputy Fire Chief Charles Blaich mesmerized attendees with a riveting account of the attack on the twin towers and the response and rescue effort in which 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, and 23 New York City cops perished. Blaich, a John Jay graduate who was a Fire Department Ground Zero commander, used his personal recollections along with diagrams, CNN videotape and still photos projected onto a huge screen to recreate the chaos and heroism of the day.

All told, more than 25,000 workers and others who were at the Trade Center when the first plane hit survived the attack. They ran, walked or were carried out of the complex by rescue workers before the second tower crashed 100 minutes later. Nearly 6,000 were treated at 73 city hospitals, about 500 admitted with serious injuries. About 1,850 persons were treated in emergency rooms in New Jersey and New York suburbs.

Blaich, whose vivid narrative was amplified by Port Authority Police Chief Joseph Morris and Richard Rotanz of the City's Office of Emergency Management, stressed a need for better communications between agencies that respond to all catastrophic emergencies. "We lost control of who was going into the buildings,” he said, noting that "rescuers inside the towers failed to receive information from a police helicopter flying above that might have saved lives.” Rotanz is also a John Jay graduate.

"Here we have their airborne antenna flying around without the capacity of transmitting to people on the upper floors to get out. The officers at the incident command center were unaware of the severity of the condition of the buildings outside," said Blaich. "It was all well-intentioned, and I am proud of the people who went in. But there has to be a big revisiting of the whole event. It all goes back to communications."

"In a way," added Morris, "thank God the buildings went down when they did because 500 more people were ready to go into the buildings."

Conference co-chair Charles Jennings, director of John Jay's Protection Management Program and a fire service policy expert, said many suggested improvements in response strategies to terrorism were also applicable to natural and man-made disasters, including earthquakes, floods, explosions, and train wrecks.

"This is probably the first dialogue in which terrorism and emergency management people got together in the wake of the September 11 tragedy," said Jennings."There are no solutions yet. We still have a lot of work to do, but the things we do to improve buildings, for example, will not only aid our response efforts to terrorism but to accidents and natural disasters like high-rise fires and earthquakes."

Distinguished faculty members from John Jay and other CUNY colleges played important roles in the three-day conference, serving as plenary session speakers, panelists and moderators of panels in three tracks: Catastrophic Events, Mitigation, and Terrorism.

Geographer Victor Goldsmith of Hunter College and John Jay fire scientist Glenn Corbett moderated a joint Catastrophic Events/Mitigation panel that included hurricane specialist Nicholas K. Coch of Queens College and Jin Jong Choi, a John Jay alumnus who is Chief of Search and Rescue in South Korea. Goldsmith and Corbett also led panel discussions on Water Emergencies, Urban Rail Emergencies, Engineering and Infrastructure, and Man-Made Disasters in the Built Environment.

Professors Robert J. Louden, George Andreopoulos, and Charles Strozier of John Jay and Michael Flynn of York College talked about the psychology of suicide bombers, the disturbing abundance of plutonium—1,130 tons—in the former Soviet Union, the dangers of anthrax and other deadly poisons during panel discussions on Nuclear Terror in Urban Areas, The Mind of a Terrorist, Hostage Taking, and Chemical and Biological Terrorism.

Historian Strozier, also director of John Jay's Center on Violence and Human Survival, served as a featured speaker on terrorism at the opening and closing plenary sessions. In his closing remarks, he noted that terror threats to world safety are great, but said that practitioners and academics, through research, education and continued interaction, can find solutions by working together—adding hopefully, "in dark times, the eyes begin to see."