Saving City Lifelines: Lessons Learned in the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks

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Saving City Lifelines: Lessons Learned in the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks


This case study of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks examines how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit, Port Authority, and other transit systems responded to the events of 9-11, and how the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) worked to coordinate response and recovery operations; it also seeks to identify those lessons that can be captured before participants rotate or retire, memories dim, and what was learned is lost. The scope is limited to the evaluation of transit response, not other surface transportation elements such as bridges and tunnels, which seemed to function quite well and could be the subject of an additional MTI study. This is a continuation of work begun by MTI in 1996, a program that has included two national symposia, two California statewide symposia, two volumes of case studies, a chronology of attacks on surface transportation from 1920 through 2000, and an Executive Overview that includes a best practices checklist.

Due to the magnitude of damage to and involvement by the New York City transit agencies, the report focuses primarily on that city’s experience. The systems that were affected directly or indirectly and the responding emergency agencies are addressed with regard to prior preparations, the immediate events on September 11, and subsequent alarms. The study includes crisis management, security, and restoration of service.

This report is not an audit of performance, but a distillation of lessons learned for use in planning response to future terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Lessons learned fell into three broad categories: command and control, planning, and planning, training, and exercises (PTE).



Brian Michael Jenkins is one of the world’s foremost authorities on terrorism and sophisticated crime. He works with government agencies, international organizations and multinational corporations as an analyst, investigator, and crisis management consultant. From 1989 to 1998, Mr. Jenkins was the Deputy Chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND’s political science department, where from 1972 to 1989, he also directed RAND’s research on political violence. He is currently a senior advisor to the president of RAND.

Jenkins has BA in Fine Arts and a Master’s degree in History, both from UCLA. He studied at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and in the Department of Humanities at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, where he was a Fulbright Fellow and recipient of a second fellowship from the Organization of American States.

Commissioned in the infantry at the age of 19, Mr. Jenkins became a paratrooper and ultimately, a Captain in the Green Berets. He is a decorated combat veteran, having served in the Seventh Special Forces Group in the Dominican Republic during the American intervention and later as a member of the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam (1966-1967). He returned to Vietnam on a special assignment in 1968 to serve as a civilian member of the Long Range Planning Task Group; he remained with the group until the end of 1969, receiving the Department of the Army’s highest award for his service. Mr. Jenkins returned to Vietnam in 1971 on a special assignment. Mr. Jenkins is the author of International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict, the editor and coauthor of Terrorism and Personal Protection, co-editor and co-author of Aviation Terrorism and Security, and co-author of The Fall of South Vietnam. He is also the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and published research reports on conflict and crime.

In 1996, President Clinton appointed Mr. Jenkins to be a member of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. From 1999 to 2000, he served as an advisor to the National Commission on Terrorism and in 2000 was appointed to be a member of the U.S. Comptroller General’s International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and a member of the board of directors of the ICC’s Commercial Crime Services. Mr. Jenkins was also a member of the Transportation Research Board/National Research Council Panel on Transportation: Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, 2002.

Mr. Jenkins has led the Mineta Transportation Institute’s counter-terrorism research team since 1997, producing three volumes of case studies of major terrorist attacks on surface transportation


Frances Edwards-Winslow is a nationally known leader in emergency management, especially in terrorism preparedness, as the Director of the San Jose Metropolitan Medical Task Force. She was recognized as Public Official of the Year 2002 by Governing Magazine for her leadership in terrorism preparedness. She was also recoginzed as one of the Power 100 of the Silicon Valley by San Jose Magazine. Shortly after the tragedy of 9-11, San Jose was named best prepared city in articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and other national publications. The overall preparedness program was featured on MSNBC and was the model of 21st century civil defense on The History Channel.

Dr. Edwards-Winslow is also Director of Emergency Preparedness for the City of San José, CA. She is responsible for San Jose’s Office of Emergency Services, including public education programs regarding terrorism preparedness, as well as natural and technological disasters that may occur in the community. OES also maintains the City’s Emergency Operations Plan, Emergency Operations Center, and coordinates the RACES and CERT programs of the city, involving over 1,000 volunteers.

Dr. Edwards-Winslow represented emergency management on the five night “Bio War” series on Nightline with Ted Koppel in 1999. She is a a published author in terrorism studies, a frequent speaker at conferences and training events, including Mineta Transportation Institute symposia. She is a member of the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University, the Bioterrorism Working Group at Stanford University, and the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Metropolitan Medical Task Force Evaluation Committee.

She teaches emergency management courses and public administration courses at various universities, including graduate courses at San José State University and Santa Clara University. She was a faculty member of the Political Science Department at Kean College of New Jersey, where she developed the Public Administration Program. She holds degrees from Drew University (BA and MA) and New York University (MUP and PhD) and a certificate in Hazardous Materials Materials Management from University of California at Irvine. She is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM).

September 2003
Safety and security
Emergency transportation
Crisis management
Transportation system



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