World Trade Center and emergency services mis-coordination

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 22, 2008
Filed in Anecdotes, Collaboration

One tragic example [of mis-coordination] is recounted in Peter Denning’s article about HFN [hastily formed networks], in which he describes analysis of the disaster response efforts after the attack on the World Trade Center: New York Police Department (NYPD) helicopters that had been monitoring conditions by circling the towers had observed signs of structural collapse in the north tower and immediately issued an emergency evacuation order to all police; however, they failed to inform the firefighters, who, having had no warning, were not evacuated.

Huston, Tracey. “Enabling Adaptability & Innovation through Hastily Formed Networks.” Reflections 7, no. 1 (2006): 9-29.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. As I understand it, it wasn’t that the police didn’t inform the firefighters, but that they were unable to do so promptly because they operated different communication systems.
    The police knew of the firefighter presence on the higher floors (over a hundred of them were resting on one floor when the collapse happened and had been spotted by a police helicopter). But by the time the messages had gone back to their own despatcher and across to the firefighters’ despatcher, it was too late.
    This is one of the lasting bitternesses of the New York firefighters against Rudy Giuliani. After the 1993 attack, there were several attempts to get a common radio system across the emergency response services but budgets were not released. The firefighters finally got a new (incompatible) system just before 911, and it was famous for its lack of reliability even without the need to coordinate with other services.

  2. Thanks for expanding on what happened Patrick.

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