United States Fire Administration Critical Infrastructure Protection
Please note: This INFOGRAM will be distributed weekly to provide members of the emergency services sector with news and information concerning the protection of their critical information systems. For further information please contact the U.S. Fire Administration's Critical Infrastructure Protection Information Center at (301) 447-1325 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Critical Infrastructures Degraded
The horrifying terrorist attacks of earlier this week have caused great grief, anger, and frustration. As our nation assesses the magnitude of death and destruction, it is clear that critical infrastructures were degraded, most particularly, those of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Critical infrastructures are "show-stoppers." They are those crucial assets that will seriously degrade or prevent fire suppression operations and rescue missions if not intact and operational. Simply stated, they are the people, things, or systems that must be protected. On Tuesday (11 September) occurred the largest loss of firefighters in a single incident throughout all world history. FDNY additionally reports that scores of fire trucks and emergency service vehicles were destroyed in the collapse of both World Trade Center (WTC) towers. The true extent of their tragic losses will not be known for some time. It is certain that FDNY survivors are shaken, but steadfast. They will continue to serve their city to the best of their ability. However, that ability has been tremendously degraded given the unprecedented losses of personnel and equipment.
Communications Infrastructure Crippled
Within three hours on the morning of 11 September, the concentrated terrorist attack crippled telephone and Internet traffic on the East Coast with the destruction of key telecommunications equipment of several carriers located atop and within the WTC towers. Cell phone and land line circuits became immediately overloaded. Web sites and Web cams associated with the WTC were quickly inaccessible. Verizon, one of the many telecom carriers affected by the attack, said two destroyed facilities usually handled calls to and from New York City (NYC). Verizon said at least ten more wireless network cell sites lost service when their connection facilities in the skyscrapers were obliterated. AT&T also had telecom equipment housed in one of the WTC buildings. Both AT&T and Sprint reported massive congestion on land and wireless networks into NYC. This harsh reality explains why cell phone calls from those trapped inside the collapsed buildings were not received until after midnight. Telecom traffic from Europe soared to sixty times higher than normal, particularly around NYC and Washington, D.C. Phone lines were extremely busy much of Tuesday, and many callers experienced the "fast busy" (signal received before the full number is dialed) and had to redial. This major disruption of the communications infrastructure largely disappeared by Wednesday. Nevertheless, it serves as another reminder of the benefits of redundancy in telecom systems and the prudence of having measures to protect this redundancy as an insurance policy.