Battalion Chief John Norman

From the April 2002 Firehouse MagazineBattalion Chief John Norman Special Operations Command - 22 yearsFirehouse: Please describe how you became involved.

Norman: Fifty. Usually one from each organization except for the key players. The Port Authority had several reps. Port Authority police had one or two reps. NYPD had two or three reps. The fire department obviously had a large staff. The 8:30 or 9 o’clock safety meeting was representatives from the contractors and involved directly DDC, the Port Authority, the fire department, discussing specific safety issues. Then there were the myriad meetings throughout the day for specific events or purposes.

Firehouse: When you needed equipment or supplies, was it delivered to the scene?

Norman: OEM was the clearinghouse for requesting resources. Some of the resources that we had in-house we handled ourselves. The Technical Services Division under Robin Mundy Sutton did a terrific job of delivering stocks of expendables and tools and anything that they had in-house and some of the stuff that we had purchased contracts with vendors they were able to bring in. A lot of vendors pulled the old softshoe on us, gave us the fast one – they brought in truckloads of tools and equipment and said here, this is for you guys, this is a donation.

Firehouse: Then they turned around?

Norman: And two and three months later we were getting bills from them. That upset me greatly. Like I say, most of the purchasing was done through OEM. We also had great resource later on into the incident after a couple of weeks into the incident, the federal government brought in these interagency incident management teams, basically wildland firefighting logistics teams. The first one was from the southwest region, New Mexico and Arizona, and they were terrific. These are people who have a lot of experience running these campaign-type operations which we never do. If we have a fire that goes beyond one shift, something’s wrong, so we don’t do this. We didn’t require relief. We provided our own relief. We didn’t require a large quantity of tools or equipment. This was very different for us. The incident management team took over our logistics operation, handling it, setting it up for us, maintaining inventory controls and tracking. They were an excellent resource. As a matter of fact, I took a picture from the command post. We had Cruthers and (Deputy Chief Peter) Hayden and (Deputy Chief) Charlie Blaich. Blaich is huddled up with the guy from the U.S. Park Service and another guy from the IMT (Incident Management Team) from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I had to take the picture. I’m going to use it in the chief’s command course because if you had told anybody on September 10th that you would have people from the U.S. Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service helping us run an incident this heavily involved in our command structure, everybody would have said you’re out of your mind, it could never happen. And here they were and they did a great job.

Firehouse: As things sort of got back to normal, did they have 100 guys at the scene every day?

Norman: Originally, we had about 225 people at the site each day.

Firehouse: Was that a day tour or 24-hour tour?

Norman: Twenty-four, around each shift.

Firehouse: So a day and a night shift?

Norman: Day and a night shift. Initially actually, it was working on eight-hour rotations, I believe. Then it went to a 12-hour tour.

Firehouse: Is that when they were reporting to Shea Stadium (in Queens)?

Norman: Yes.

Firehouse: OK, we’re at 225 a day each shift, eight-hour rotation into 12 hours. The guys reported to Shea Stadium. They were on buses. They were outfitted and then they went down there. Later, it was reduced?

Norman: To about 100. The commitment has been that it this continues as long as we need them. Certainly, as the work site was shrinking, we didn’t need that many people. Buildings 4 and 5 were cleared. They were searched. They were down to the ground level. There was nothing to be done in those sites. Six was almost to that stage and all the accessible areas were searched. The commitment has been that we’re going to try to get every last body. When the thing is down to the ground level, that’s when our last commitment will end. But we may only have an engine for the last month or thereabouts. When we’re not digging through heavy steel, when there’s no need for any specialized equipment, we’re not going to have it there.

Firehouse: I heard they found Ladder 4?