FDNY to Recommend Policy Overhaul

Report Due Monday Makes Some 20 Changes in Operations, Planning and More

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- At least one of the Fire Department of New York's most senior officers should oversee large-scale emergencies from its remote operations center instead of the disaster scene, according to a five-month study of the department's response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report to be released Monday recommends overhauling many systems and procedures to prepare for emergencies that could be more daunting than even the World Trade Center collapse, according to two officials familiar with the report, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The report's recommendations include a more rigorously structured command system to ensure the tight, coordinated control of firefighters and equipment.

Dozens of firefighters directed to staging points on streets surrounding the twin towers on Sept. 11 instead went straight into the trade center, the officials said. The department lost 343 members that day.

The report makes about 20 recommendations for changes to the department's operational preparedness, its planning and management, its communications and technology and its services to support department members and their families, the officials said.

It praises what it calls firefighters' historic evacuation of an estimated 25,000 people from the twin towers, the officials said, and emphasizes that it would have nearly impossible for any fire department to prepare for such an event.

Beyond the sheer loss of life, the department was devastated by the deaths of some of its most senior commanders, including Chief of Department Peter Ganci. A number of commanders were in the lobbies of the towers and others were stationed elsewhere in the trade center complex.

Keeping senior officers at the FDNY's operations center in Brooklyn would, hopefully, avoid the loss of senior officers and allow for a coordinated response to multiple emergencies, the officials said.

The roughly 100-page document also recommends that the department bolster its single hazardous materials unit with new firefighters and equipment, allowing the FDNY to better respond to potential chemical, biological or radiological attack.

It says the FDNY and neighboring fire departments should develop mutual-aid procedures for assisting each other during massive emergencies.

Similarly, procedures should be developed under which the fire department, police department and agencies as diverse as the CIA and Coast Guard could better coordinate the dissemination of information. It is also vital for multiple agencies to have communication systems and equipment that work together, the officials said.

The report was prepared by high-ranking department officials and management consultant McKinsey & Co., who together conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed hundreds of pages of computer records and hours of radio transmissions.

It was scheduled to be released Monday morning, along with a similar review of police procedures, at a City Hall news conference by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Spokesmen for Bloomberg and the fire department declined to comment Sunday.

The police department is considering changes that range from providing a stronger command structure at disaster sites to creating a ``shadow staff'' to run the department if senior officers are killed. It also may reduce the number of officers responding to a catastrophe such as Sept. 11; 23 police officers were killed.