Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
Modern communications technology allowed people around the world to watch in real time the horrific aftermath of two planes hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. Simultaneously, communications technology was failing to meet the most basic needs of public safety organizations on the scene . The worst failure occurred in the World Trade Center’s North Tower. At 9:59AM on September 11, 2001, the first of several announcements was transmitted to emergency responders ordering them to evacuate the North Tower. Police inside the building heard the order on their radios, and most left safely. However, firefighters were using incompatible communications equipment that could not receive the order. People watching television at home knew that the unimaginable had already occurred - that the World Trade Center’s South Tower had collapsed - but many firefighters inside the North Tower would never learn of this. When the North tower fell 29 minutes after that first evacuation order, 121 firefighters were still inside. None survived. At the same time, two hundred miles away, more communications failures were making it harder to contain fires at the Pentagon, where another plane had crashed. These failures put more lives at risk.
Communications Magazine, IEEE, 43, 3, 10-11.