television and radio schedules

10 Years After 9-11 … Are Our Buildings & Firefighters Safer ??

2011-09-11:  From the beginning of the past week, news media (printed and on-line), and the television and radio schedules have all been full of articles, stories, opinions, and interpretative and speculative pieces about the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York, and its tragic aftermathToday is the 10th Anniversary … a long ten years since that sunny Tuesday morning in Manhattan !

BUT … is anybody out there asking the questions: “Are Our Buildings Safer ?” … and … “Are Our Firefighters Safer ?”   AND … if you do ask those questions … are you able to distinguish between solid, reliable information and ‘spin’ ?

So many Irish people, and people of Irish descent, were directly involved in this traumatic event … working inside the WTC offices, as stockbrokers … or outside, as maintenance personnel, or firefighters, policemen and women, or as members of the emergency medical services …

Colour photograph showing the thick cloud of toxic dust and debris spreading rapidly throughout lower Manhattan, and beyond, after the Second Tower Collapse (WTC 1/North Tower) just before 10.30 hrs (local time) on the morning of 11 September 2001. Earlier, seismic sensors located 160 Km away had recorded the time and intensity of the First Tower Collapse (WTC 2/South Tower) at 09.59 hrs (local time). Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the thick cloud of toxic dust and debris spreading rapidly throughout lower Manhattan, and beyond, after the Second Tower Collapse (WTC 1/North Tower) just before 10.30 hrs (local time) on the morning of 11 September 2001. Earlier, seismic sensors located 160 Km away had recorded the time and intensity of the First Tower Collapse (WTC 2/South Tower) at 09.59 hrs (local time). Click to enlarge.

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REALPOLITIK

The previous post about the United Nations Gaza Flotilla Report, I hope, created an uncertainty in your mind … a worrying thought regarding political interference and the negative, and very often, destructive influence of vested interests … which is a necessary frame of mind to have, also, for an essential discussion – on the 10th Anniversary of the 9-11 WTC Incident – about the Safety of Our Buildings, particularly High-Rise Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and those Buildings having a Critical Function and/or an Innovative Design … and the Safety of Our Firefighters.

By ‘Our Buildings’ … I don’t just mean buildings in Ireland, or Europe … I mean buildings on every continent of our small planet.  And … such a discussion must be trans-disciplinary, involving the use of simple language only … because it is necessary for each discipline to clearly understand what the others are saying (this rarely happens !) … and the discussion must also be transparent to, and be easily assimilated by, the general population in all of our societies.  And by ‘Our Firefighters’ … I mean firefighters worldwide.

Concerning the Gaza Flotilla Report … we could ask …

  • Would the Findings and Recommendations have been different … if there had been 4 independent and obviously impartial people on the Panel of Inquiry instead ?   The answer is … yes, of course !   And …
  • Why did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominate President Álvaro Uribe (Vice-Chair), an ‘ultra’ rightwing politician from Columbia … and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar, an Israeli, to serve on the Panel ?   I will leave you to answer that for yourself …

The important point I wish to make is that the community of International Fire Science and Engineering – just like every other ‘human’ community – is not immune from these sorts of malevolent influences !

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Colour photograph showing advanced clean up operations at the World Trade Center Complex after 11 September 2001. Fires continued to smoulder for weeks after the Incident. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing advanced clean up operations at the World Trade Center Complex after 11 September 2001. Fires continued to smoulder for weeks after the Incident. Click to enlarge.

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LONG-TERM ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF 9-11

Just five weeks after the 9-11 World Trade Center (WTC) Incident in New York … I found myself in Manhattan for the purpose of making an important presentation to a conference which was taking place not far from Madison Square Garden … while staying Down-Town in Battery Park City, at an apartment within the Security Zone.  Yes, I was worried and fearful before going … but …

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

On first arriving in the city, by taxi from Kennedy Airport … I witnessed, at first hand, the racist hostility of a policeman towards our coloured Asian driver, who had simply asked about the procedure to pass through the Security Zone Boundary.  Later, walking near the WTC Site, I would encounter the ‘macho’ behaviour of many National Guardsmen on security duty.

At the conference, I met a person who was literally unable to speak – could not even bear to talk about – the 9-11 Incident.

Everywhere south of Canal Street was in a terrible, horrific condition.

The weather, fortunately, had remained generally very good … sunny, with a light breeze coming in from the sea.  Then, unexpectedly, one day towards the end of my stay … the sky was overcast and the air stood still … in lower Manhattan, it assaulted my eyes, nose and the back of my throat.  Many times, during that particular day, I retched … but could not vomit !   Yet, a representative of the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) announced that there was no problem with air quality !   Meanwhile, in Mid-Town, everything ‘appeared’ normal.

10 Years Afterwards … people, communities and the country (USA) are all still suffering … physically, mentally and psychologically … from the 9-11 WTC Incident … unable to ask for help, or perhaps, too proud or ashamed to speak up.

September 2001 – World Health Organization

WHO: How to Address Psychosocial Reactions to Catastrophe

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (12.5 kb)

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10 YEARS AFTER 9-11 – ARE OUR BUILDINGS & FIREFIGHTERS SAFER ?

Or to put it in a more technical way … how are the Critical Recommendations contained in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Reports on the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses being implemented ?   And, what is the quality of that implementation ?

At this time, two years ago … I asked …

  • Why are so many Key Institutions and Organizations in the International Building Sector still desperately trying to ignore and/or deny the Recommendations in those 2 NIST Reports ?
  • Why have National Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards not yet been revised to respond, properly and satisfactorily, to the NIST Recommendations ?
  • Why can we not yet use All Lifts (Elevators) in a Building during a fire incident ?   Why are Lift (Elevator) Manufacturers still actively resisting this necessary change ?

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Colour image showing an Ostrich with its Head in the Sand ... an accurate description of the International 'Technical' Reaction to the 9-11 WTC Incident ... "it never happened" ... or "it was a unique event, and it will never happen again" ... or "this unusual event only has implications for very, very, very tall buildings" ... blah, blah, blah !!

Colour image showing an Ostrich with its Head in the Sand ... an accurate description of the International 'Technical' Reaction to the 9-11 WTC Incident ... "it never happened" ... or "it was a unique event, and it will never happen again" ... or "this unusual event only has implications for very, very, very tall buildings" ... blah, blah, blah !!

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The answers to the questions are NO … and NO … minor revisions (tinkering at the edges) have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in some countries … and, generally, progress on implementing the NIST Recommendations is proving to be very slow … too slow !   Most surprisingly, no revisions have been made to Codes/Regulations & Standards in many countries.

To illustrate tinkering at the edges … refer to the USA’s International Building Code (2012 Edition) … which, despite its grandiose title, is really just another of the USA’s National Model Building Codes … and check out this very disappointing Article: ‘Evolution of Building Code Requirements in a Post 9/11 World’, by David Drengenberg and Gene Corley, in the recently published Special Issue III (2011) of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Journal … which is available at  http://www.ctbuh.org/

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Progress at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the USA, is a little more apparent … but still, far too little and far too slow.  Check out this recent Special 9-11 Report: ‘A Decade of Difference’, by Fred Durso Jr … on the NFPA WebSite … http://www.nfpa.org/publicJournalDetail.asp?categoryID=2248&itemID=53000&src=NFPAJournal

And … released earlier this year, NFPA’s Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service has identified ‘areas of ongoing concern’ !!

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To Be Continued …

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END

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