Never Again: Today's FDNY Is Stronger and Better Prepared

On Sept. 11, 2001, New York City firefighters were not able to communicate with one another, and commanders on the scene didn't know what was going on outside the towers. FDNY and city leaders said, -Never again,' and turned to technology for help.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, it was the worst terrorist attack to occur on American soil. In responding to the tragedy that took the lives of 2,823 people, the Fire Department of the City of New York showed extreme heroism in safely evacuating more than 25,000 people.

Despite losing 343 firefighters in the aftermath of the attack, the FDNY used all its resources to bring the situation under control, taxing the department's communications and technology assets to the limit. The FDNY and city leaders swore that would never happen again, so they determined to create state-of-the-art communications and IT systems.

As a first step, the FDNY commissioned McKinsey & Co. to evaluate the department's response to the 9/11 attack. The firm made several recommendations, including many designed to help the FDNY improve its communications and technology systems.

For instance, because of communications problems on the scene during 9/11, firefighters were not able to communicate with others, and commanders on the scene were unaware of what was going on outside the towers. Moreover, the collapse of the buildings destroyed an incident command post on the scene and weakened the command-and-control structure.

According to the McKinsey statement, "The response of firefighters and EMS [Emergency Medical Services] personnel to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 was unprecedented in scale and scope. More than 200 fire units responded, approximately half of all units in the city. More than 100 ambulances in the emergency services system responded, about 30 percent of the total available. This massive response taxed the FDNY's efforts to manage its personnel and equipment in several ways."