Analysis of 9/11 Pentagon Response Reveals Strengths, Weaknesses

An independent analysis of the response to the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon released today reveals important lessons for local emergency personnel throughout the nation, Arlington officials said. Arlington, which is home to the Pentagon, was the...


An independent analysis of the response to the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon released today reveals important lessons for local emergency personnel throughout the nation, Arlington officials said. Arlington, which is home to the Pentagon, was the first responder to the attack and led the 10-day rescue and recovery effort. The FBI assumed command of the crime scene on Sept. 21.

While the After-Action Report commends Arlington, and its many public, private and non-profit partners, for its successful handling of the rescue and recovery efforts, it also points to several challenges and makes recommendations to overcome those challenges in the future.

"The success of the response was due in large part to Arlington's level of preparedness and professional, innovative use of resources," said Grant Peterson of Titan Systems Corporation (TSC), which prepared the report. "Arlington employees throughout the organization from the library system, schools, parks and recreation - hundreds of them from every department - were engaged to provide vital resources quickly and efficiently."

The report was commissioned by Arlington, utilizing a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"As first responders to this terrible act of terrorism, we have a responsibility to share our experiences for the benefit of our regional emergency officials and the rest of America's local leaders," Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee said. "As professionals, we must be able to do an even better job if we have to respond to another mass casualty incident today. Beyond enhancing our own capabilities, we hope this report will help other local governments in their emergency preparedness planning."

The report outlined five primary aspects of the Arlington-led response which contributed to the successful operation and are models for other emergency responders to follow.

Among the best practices are:

 

·      The Incident Commander leadership model, which helped multiple jurisdictions work together effectively with strong central leadership from Incident Commander James H. Schwartz, Arlington Assistant Fire Chief of Operations and Emergency Services and Arlington Fire Chief Edward Plaugher.

·      The successful management and integration of numerous mutual-aid assets and outside support, including all levels of government, the military, public service organizations and businesses.

·      Adherence to Arlington's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), first established in 1956, which enabled the quick marshalling of county resources in support of first responders without interfering with tactical operations.

·      Deployment of Arlington's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Already an established program in the county, the EAP was on the scene within three hours of the attack to provide support to first responders, their families and others.

·      Prior training related to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Having long recognized the potential risks for such attacks in the Washington, D.C. area, county officials have led aggressive training exercises related to the threat of terrorism since the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo. They also had extensive training related to Y2K preparedness and helped pioneer a mass medical emergency response system now embraced by more than 100 cities. In addition to describing the best practices of the operation, the After-Action Report also points to five challenges faced by regional emergency officials at the Pentagon which have important relevance to emergency preparedness leaders across the country.

 

The key challenges of the response included:

 

This content continues onto the next page...