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May 2002
Future CUNY Facility on Governors Island Announced by Governor and Mayor.
Student Media Conference Addresses "Attack Mentality" after 9/11
Baruch Orients City Council Freshmen
Turning "D"s into Degrees: A CUNY Student Tells How
Life Resumes 500 Feet from Ground Zero
A Diaspora of CUNY Students into Halls of Power
A View to a Krill: Antarctic Expedition by College of Staten Island Scientists
The City University Attracts Talent from Near and Far
CUNY, PSC Announce Agreement on a New Contract
Chancellor Goldstein Initiates New Efficiencies, Greater Student Access to Learning Technology
Pulitzer Prize to Louis Menand
Executive Leadership Program Inaugurated
First Betty Shabazz Chair Appointed at Medgar Evers College
City University Retains New Fundraising Consultant
Former Congressman Dellums to Speak on AIDS at CCNY
City Tech Scholarship For All Four Seasons
Major CCNY Grant for Remote Sensing

Student Development, Enrollment Conference by Mayor

ReBuilding New York

New City College Biomedical Engineering Department

"Trailer Heroes" of BMCC Build at CCNY

A Life of Laura Bridgman—Disabled Pioneer in Education

Exotic Bird Alights at The Graduate Center

 
 



Fire Scientist

By Glenn Corbett

While it is well known that terrorists commandeered two passenger planes and flew them into the twin towers, it is not exactly clear what series of events and conditions caused the towers to collapse. What elements (if any) of the design, construction, and maintenance of the structures played a role in their demise? How did the towers themselves affect the evacuation and firefighting efforts?

In order to put these crucial questions in context, consider these facts. First, the twin towers were the first total collapse of burning high-rise buildings in U.S. history. Second, this disaster was the biggest structural failure in the recorded history of the world. With this in mind, you would think that large amounts of personnel and financial resources would be put in place to study and learn from this tragedy. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

To date, very little money has been spent on gathering and analyzing data. A study of the collapse is under way, but the finished report will apparently be limited to providing a compilation of data and a proposal of several theories to explain the collapse—hardly a definitive or exhaustive study. Much of the structural steel has already been scrapped, effectively destroying it as potentially valuable evidence. Without evidence, the theories of collapse may remain just that—theories. Preliminary building evacuation research is currently being conducted by a group of volunteers, although they are looking for federal funding for a comprehensive study.

What is needed is a fully resourced and coordinated effort to study and learn from the World Trade Center disaster, which killed three times as many firefighters as are lost in the entire United States in a typical year. Areas of study should include an analysis of the structural design, collapse, building evacuation, firefighting efforts, and the search-and-rescue operations. Doubtless, from such a study would emerge significant and valuable proposals for improving building codes and emergency procedures.

Several members of the fire service, academia, and relatives of victims have called upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take the lead role in ensuring that the World Trade Center disaster will be thoroughly studied. In this manner, we will enhance the safety of individuals working and living in high-rise buildings as well as provide a permanent legacy for the many victims of this terrible tragedy.

Glenn Corbett is Professor of Fire Science at John Jay College, a captain in the Waldick, New Jersey, Fire Department, and technical editor for Fire Engineering magazine


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