A little information and a lot of courage
The terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers destroyed the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) along with all its hardware, software and data. After two rapid relocations, EOC established quarters in a ship terminal at Pier 92.
Although the city was in the midst of implementing a comprehensive enterprisewide GIS system, the city’s spatial data was still being managed at the agency/departmental level. To manage the city’s response to the developing crisis, its data, held in dozens of departments and agencies, had to be assembled and combined with data from other non-city government entities and vendors as quickly as possible.
GIS specialists, including city employees and volunteers from across the country, staffed the emergency mapping center. Using GIS software supplied by Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, they combined base data with data supplied from the field to generate maps showing command post locations, vehicle and pedestrian restrictions, utility outages, pedestrian and vehicle access zones, subway and bus line status, and river crossing access.
Thermal image maps assisted search-and-rescue teams and New York City firefighters in determining the proximity of fires to underground fuel storage tanks. In the days and weeks that followed, maps showing damaged, unstable and destroyed buildings helped coordinate rescue, then recovery and cleanup, efforts.
The city also used an emergency and event management system from Canoga Park, Calif.-based E Team. The system supplies mapping and querying capabilities using a secure Web site to access constantly updated information. The system was installed within days of the attacks. It supplied real-time data from multiple locations that improved rescue and recovery operations and was soon deployed to command posts and staging areas using wireless technology and laptops designed for rugged environments.
Quickly sharing and analyzing data and deriving information was necessary before effective action could take place. “In the order of importance … information was second only to courage,” said Al Liedner, GIS manager for the city of New York, following the attacks on the World Trade Center.