In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Nicholas Scoppetta Disaster Planning and Preparedness: A Human Story IN DECEMBER 2001, MAYOR-ELECT MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ASKED ME to becom e th e city’s thirty-first fire com m issioner. I had already announced th at I w ould leave the A dm inistration for C hildren’s Services, where I had been com m issioner for six years, and was plan­ ning on leaving government. But, like all New Yorkers, I had watched in horror as events unfolded on September 11, 2001, and I knew that the New York City Fire D epartm ent (FDNY) was the hardest hit of all city agencies in the attacks. Being asked to help rebuild this storied New York institution was an honor, and saying yes was my duty. Disaster preparedness is at the forefront of the FDNY’s mission, as it is for first responders in cities and towns across the country. Even just a passing awareness of current events makes it clear why disaster preparedness is so im portant. At the tim e this conference was held, California was still reeling from some of the worst fires in its history. New Orleans had yet to be rebuilt. And for many people in New York, the m emory of 9-11, our w orst disaster, is still painfully fresh. The New York City Fire D epartm ent has been on the ground in each of those disasters. In addition, in our day to day operations, the FDNY oversees fire and life safety for our 8 million inhabitants and the millions more who w ork and visit the city every day. We respond to all emergency medical and fire calls in the more than 321 square miles of the five boroughs. In 2007 our m ore than 11,000 firefighters put out over 50,000 fires. Our emergency medical technicians and paramedics responded to 1.3 million calls. social research Vol 75 : No 3 : Fall 2008 807 In the last several years we have responded to a wall collapse and landslide on a busy highway, two building explosions, a single engine plane crashing into a high-rise apartm ent building, a huge fire at an ExxonMobil oil storage facility and a citywide blackout. All of these crit­ ical situations were handled skillfully by our m embers w ith m inim al loss of life. In a city this size, literally anything can happen. So how to manage the m onum ental task of protecting it? Two elements are abso­ lutely vital in this equation: capability and flexibility. Capability is having the necessary tools at our disposal—including the m ost reliable and up-to-date equipm ent—and placing our resources in locations where they will be m ost accessible and effective. It means having plans at the ready to deal w ith the events that are likely to occur. And m ost im portant, it m eans having well-trained first responders. The im portance of planning and preparedness cannot be over­ stated. But of course plans and preparations alone will not come to the rescue in a difficult m om ent. We m ust have people who are capable of im plem enting those plans. We simply do not know w hat the next m ajor incident is going to be, and so we m ust be flexible. We have to be ready for w hatever happens. It could be a chemical attack. It could be a Category 5 hurri­ cane. It could be another blackout or brownout. To put it another way, we plan for an event; we do not plan for the event. Of course, the biggest event in the FDNY’s history came on September 11, 2001. It was an event that changed everything for the department. And it brought the concept of disaster preparedness to the forefront in state and local governments across America as never before. Before 9/11, our firefighters were m ainly trained to respond to unintentional acts. W hile loss of life and unknow n dangers were always part of the job, it was not until the World Trade Center attack in 2001 that the departm ent was faced w ith the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 807-814
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.