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Washington Technology home > 10/08/01 issue

10/08/01; Vol. 16 No. 14

Giuliani Improvises After Command Center Gets Hit

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani got a lot of ribbing when, in 1998, he ordered the construction of a $15 million emergency command center from which he could direct recovery efforts from possible terrorist attacks on the city.

The press dubbed it “the bunker,” and Giuliani’s political enemies poked fun at his desire to guard the city against bombings or chemical or biological attack.

Giuliani appears prescient today, but what he couldn’t foresee was that the location he picked for the bunker — 7 World Trade Center — would become ground zero for the Sept. 11 attack on the complex.

The 47-story building in which the command center was located is now part of the rubble that includes the World Trade Center towers.

On the morning of Sept. 11, the mayor rushed to his command center shortly after the attack, but was forced to flee one location after another when the towers and adjacent buildings began collapsing, according to the New York Times.

Despite the scope of the catastrophe, city employees were able to establish a fully functioning, alternative emergency management command center within three days of the catastrophe. The leadership Giuliani has shown in the crisis, coupled with the flexibility of city workers, shows it is possible to overcome almost any disaster, said Charles Gerhards, Pennsylvania’s chief information officer.

Gerhards said “Your planning can’t be perfect, but then that is where leadership and judgment come in,” he said, referring to the resilience of Giuliani and New York City employees who rebuilt the mayor’s command center.

“You have the plan, but then you have to modify it,” he said. “Government officials need to be prepared for many different scenarios.”

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