©1999 - 2005
Edward D. Reuss
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A global consulting firm with offices here in New York City published a report on the actions of the New York City Police Department during the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.  McKinsey & Company produced a report containing eighty-eight pages. On page one the report stated that the purpose of the review was: “to explore what lessons the NYPD can learn from the events of September 11th. It is not a critique of the individual actions of the NYPD personnel, but rather an attempt to identify potential improvement opportunities in order to better prepare the department for future emergencies”.


The report went on to give the caveat:

 “The NYPD asked McKinsey to facilitate this review as an objective fact gatherer and observer, not as an expert in emergency response.” 

Such a caveat was placed at the beginning of this report for very good reasons. Let me also give a caveat prior to writing my comments about the McKinsey Report.  I do not seek to give negative criticism of the report.  I only want to offer some constructive criticism. I read the report with a mindset that looked for a certain group of words. Those words are the following: “INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM”.  I was disappointed.  Nowhere in this report were those words to be found.  I had already read the McKinsey Report on the Fire Department of the City of New York. That report was filled with references to the need for adoption and utilization of the Incident Command System (ICS) .

The State of New York has mandated that this system be made the template for all emergency operations.  See the Governor’s executive order:

I have written previous articles about the critical need for adoption of the Incident Command System (ICS) by ALL emergency services.  Click here to read an article:


The need for the adoption of the Incident Command System (ICS) is well known by the entire emergency management community.  Why the absence of references to the need for the NYPD to adopt this system?



On September 11th, 2001 and for the first two weeks after, I had mobilized hundreds of retired members of the NYPD and established a mobilization point on Staten Island. Many of those retirees went up to Ground Zero and assisted in the chaos that followed the attack.  Many others were instrumental in establishing a site to supply the rescue workers.   We sent tons of supplies up to Ground Zero and felt that we had contributed materially to the rescue efforts.  It was not until about two weeks after that I personally went to Ground Zero and stood in the midst of “The Pile”



I met Police Officer Tim O’Neill who was assigned to Ground Zero. Tim was assigned to a grim task at the temporary morgue that had been established on Liberty Street between Trinity Place and Broadway.  It was humbling experience to be present at Ground Zero.  Tim and I gave a seminar at John Jay College on violence in the workplace.


He is a qualified expert in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.  Trauma counseling was an important area of his expertise.  Yet, I know that the enormity of the destruction dwarfed any previous traumatic incidents that he or other experts in CISD had ever experienced. As we walked the short distance down Liberty Street to Trinity Place, I glanced at the building on the southwest corner. Someone had scrawled “Temp Hdqtrs” in red spraypaint on the side of the building.  Scores of exhausted firefighters, cops, and other emergency rescue workers sat on the curbside on Liberty Street between Trinity Place and Greenwich Street.  The heavy equipment had cleared enough of the debris away from that area.  As I passed them, I looked into their eyes and saw the “thousand yard stare” that indicated extreme critical incident stress.  I had my digital camera with me, but I could not bring myself to photograph them as they sat in stunned silence. 

Their dust encrusted faces and helmets identified them as early veterans of the new “War on Terror”. There will be many more such veterans before this new war is over. I mentioned to Tim about how important it would be that these rescue workers undergo debriefing as often as possible.  He told me about the program for cops that had been set up with POPPA. (Police Officers Peers Providing Assistance).  The FDNY would also have a similar program.


The huge pile of debris that had been the World Trade Center and the heavily damaged buildings on the perimeter created a feeling that was reminiscent of standing inside a huge crater. The still-smoldering “Pile” completed the volcanic-like scenario. I looked up at One Liberty Plaza on the corner of Liberty Street and Church Street.  Much of the face of the building had sustained damage.  North of One Liberty Street stood the Century 21 Department Store and the Millenium Hotel.  Both of those buildings were also damaged when the towers collapsed.  Tim warned that at the sound of an alarm, all the rescue workers would run from “The Pile”.  He pointed to the large windows on the surrounding buildings and recalled how some of the windows had popped out of their frames and fell like deadly leaves to the ground below.

Tim next introduced me to some of the volunteers from around the Nation who had responded to New York City with the FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency .  We went to the nearby Church Street Cache that served as the supply base for the Church Street Sector.  For those who are not familiar with Incident Command System (ICS) terminology, a cache is a logistic supply location for a designated sector. I met Ernie Smith of the Texas Forest Service and Steve Hayden, Trail Crew Supervisor, United States Forest Service.  Both of these men were acting as the Receiving and Distribution managers at the Church Street Cache.  The temporary trailer was filled with supplies such as helmets, boots, gloves, and other supplies needed by the rescue workers.

Smith was from Texas and Hayden was from Oregon. Both of these men were experienced in the Incident Command System.

L to R:  PO Tim O’Neill, Ernie Smith, Steven Hayden



 “Urban Search and Rescue Teams” (USAR) from around the Nation were assisting in the rescue attempts.  The Incident Commander and his staff had established their Incident Command Post ten blocks north of Ground Zero in Fire Department facilities on Duane Street between Broadway and Church Street. FDNY Engine 7 and Ladder 1 occupied that location as well. The “ICP” was where all primary command functions were executed. However, the Incident “Base” was located at what was named “Hilton Base” in Mid-town Manhattan.   The “Incident Base” is the location where primary logistics functions are coordinated. Are you confused by the terminology? You thought that you were up to date in police lingo?  Guess again.  Unless you are versed in the new language of emergency management, you will be hard pressed to fit into the system.

We all know that the use of acronyms by those inside of any system identifies those who are active members of that system.  Ignorance of those acronyms identifies those who are not. The terminology of the Incident Command System (ICS) is filled with such acronyms.   Would you know where the “RESTAT” unit was located? Or the “SITSTAT” unit?  Would you know what the acronym “C3I” signifies?   Or do you know what “METTAG” refers to?  The Incident Command System (ICS) also has its own terminology.

Emergency Management requires that ALL branches of emergency services be well versed in the same terminology. Unity of command, span of control, and delegation of authority requires that all be on the same page when it comes to such emergency management.   FDNY Chief Charles Blaich needs no convincing.  He risked his career to point out the problems facing his department.    I met him at the Urban Hazards Forum at John Jay College and was impressed with his expertise and professionalism.


Recently, I again met him at the US Custom’s House in Manhattan during the World Trade Center Building Code Task Force hearings.

The McKinsey Report failed to identify this in their report on the NYPD. If the NYPD is not to be fully trained in the Incident Command System (ICS) , then expect no unity of command at emergencies in the future. Look for more of the same inter-service conflict that we have seen in the past.

Copyright © 2002 Edward D. Reuss



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