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Emergency Response to 9/11

Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems

Emergency Response to 9/11

William “Al” Wallace, professor of decision sciences and engineering systems, was one of six of the nation’s top “rapid-response researchers” who presented their assessments on the emergency response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The experts presented their research findings at the National Science Foundation forum in Arlington, Va.

Wallace’s assessment focused on the impact of the attacks on critical infrastructure systems, such as water, power, telecommunications, and banking.

Wallace says that while he was impressed by the quick response, knowledge, and experience of power and telecommunications companies, better coordination, communications, and scenario-building are needed within and among the various public and private service providers to ensure infrastructure viability and public safety.

For example, the downed power lines at the World Trade Center site had a direct effect on the city’s major public resources, ranging from banking transactions and telecommunications to electronic water monitoring systems. The impact was global, Wallace said.

“These infrastructure systems are not necessarily interconnected, but they are interdependent, and when something goes awry in one system, the catastrophe may have a domino effect on many others,” Wallace says. “We must remember that the attack itself was on local buildings in New York City, but the impact was global. Financial institutions in New York City are key to international commerce. Therefore in response and restoration of service, we must act locally, but always think globally.”

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Rensselaer Magazine: Summer 2004
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