New Conceptsfor High-Rise Evacuations
Among the tragedies most often citedabout that day was the failure of radiotransmissions to reach firefighters and otherfirst-responders who were still inside theTowers when they fell. Although the radiosthemselves were blamed, it was thebuildings’ infrastructure that caused theproblem, according to Professor GlennCorbett, chairman of the Department ofProtection Management and a professorof Fire Science.
“We’ve made a lot of leaps andbounds in terms of getting newradios that allow for communicationbetween police, fire and EMS(Emergency Medical Services), butwhat hadn’t been solved was theissue with the high-rise buildingitself,” he said. “The Twin Towers hadbig steel skeletons which,unfortunately, have a habit ofswallowing radio transmissions.”
Corbett has been an active participant in thecampaign to improve high-rise building safetythrough changes in codes and regulations. Inaddition to testifying before the 9/11Commission, he was selected as a memberof an advisory committee for the NationalInstitute of Standards and Technology (NIST)in Gaithersburg, MD, a body that investigatedthe evacuation of buildings on 9/11.“If the radio signal cannot be amplifiedbecause you’re in a steel cage, themessages are lost and we believe that a lotof guys died on 9/11 because they never gotthe order to evacuate,” he said.Fortunately, this critical issue has recentlybeen resolved through a National Fire Codeprovision that allows local fire departments todecide what kind of radio or communicationthey want to have in a high-rise, explainedCorbett. A fire chief would have the authorityto require a signal repeater or signalamplification put in the building.Firefighters and emergency managers havefought for and been successful in changingbuilding codes in other ways, as well, henoted. The addition of wider stairways; betterredundancy in fire suppression equipment,such as sprinklers; and other enhancementswithin the structural frames of the buildingsthemselves have all been achieved. Yet thereis still further to go.“As far as codes and regulations go, all thosethings take forever to actually accomplish,”he said. “Some of these have gone through,but it took a very, very long time. We’ve beenfighting these things for ten years and we’restill fighting for certain issues.”High-rise evacuation strategies have alsocome under review in the wake of 9/11.Professor Norman Groner, a colleague ofCorbett’s on the Fire Science faculty and onthe NIST committee noted that elevators —Through the expertise of faculty who haveserved on investigative panels andcommittees outside of the College,John Jay has brought its influence to bearon fourpoints deemed essential for animproved response in the wake of 9/11:high-rise building infrastructure, technology,critical-incident analysis and emergencymanagement.
Students making presentations atconference
John Jay hasbrought itsinfluence to bear on four pointsdeemed essentialfor an improvedresponse inthe wake of 9/11:
high-risebuildinginfrastructure,technology,critical-incident analysis andemergency management.
“If the radiosignal cannotbe amplifiedbecause you’rein a steel cage,the messages are lost and we believe that a lot of guysdied on 9/11because they never got theorder toevacuate.”
Professor Charles Jennings on Main Street NEED NEW CAPTIONProfessor Charles Jennings
in the Post-9/11 Era
By Jennifer Nislow
The destruction of the World Trade Center by terroristson September 11, 2001 was a tragedy for Americans;one that our nation will never forget. In the decade since,however, experts in the field of emergency managementhave come to the fore with new insights and prescriptionsfor the handling of both man-made and natural disasters.John Jay has been deeply involved in resolving some ofthe critical problems identified by post-incident analyses.