emergency operations centres (EOC’s)

NIST WTC Recommendations 21-24 > Improved Firefighting

Previous Posts in This Series …

2011-10-25:  NIST’s Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses … GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity – Recommendations 1, 2 & 3 (out of 30)

2011-11-18:  NIST WTC Recommendations 4-7 > Structural Fire EnduranceGROUP 2.  Enhanced Fire Endurance of Structures – Recommendations 4, 5, 6 & 7

2011-11-24:  NIST WTC Recommendations 8-11 > New Design of StructuresGROUP 3.  New Methods for Fire Resisting Design of Structures – Recommendations 8, 9, 10 & 11

2011-11-25:  NIST WTC Recommendations 12-15 > Improved Active ProtectionGROUP 4.  Improved Active Fire Protection – Recommendations 12, 13, 14 & 15

2011-11-30:  NIST Recommendations 16-20 > Improved People EvacuationGROUP 5.  Improved Building Evacuation – Recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20



  1.     Such is the pervasively high level of both direct and indirect fire losses, not all of which have yet been identified … that a force of committed firefighters, having sufficient numbers and properly trained and equipped, is a valuable social asset in any community … and one not to be weakened or diluted easily.

  2.     Lack of discipline among firefighters was an issue during the day of 9-11 (11th September 2011) in New York …

In real life or death situations, however, discipline is essential … but competent and efficient command, control and co-ordination … facilitated by reliable systems of communication (human and electronic) … are critical.

And accurate, real time information about what is happening at a building fire incident of whatever scale … i.e. situation awareness … is a tool which propels forward and encourages the effective functioning of both the firefighter and the user/occupant evacuating the building.

  3.     A serious gap, internationally … a deep cavern … in the awareness, training and education of firefighters at all levels … is the issue of ‘disability’ and the varying range of abilities in a typical building user/occupant profile.

It is not fully appreciated by firefighters that certain people may die if placed in a standard fireman’s lift position … or, if shouted and screamed at, many people may have no understanding whatever of the firefighter’s intended meaning … or that, in order for everyone to reach a place of safety, it is necessary for firefighters to ensure that safe, accessible routes from the building (i.e. clear of all obstacles, e.g. fire hose lines) are prepared for, thoroughly, in advance of any fire incident … and actually provided should one occur.

Panic attacks during an emergency do exist !   Standard movement times for people evacuating do not exist !!   And … firefighters may themselves become impaired during a building fire incident !!!

  4.     As for building designers … where do I even start ??   Much could, and should, be done in the design and initial construction of a building to assure firefighter safety.  But … where does any requirement to consider this issue appear in national building codes/regulations ??

I have already discussed this matter in relation to European Union (EU) Regulation 305/2011 on Construction Products, where such a requirement is contained in Basic Requirement for Construction Works 2: ‘Safety in Case of Fire’ (Annex I).



GROUP 6.  Improved Emergency Response

Technologies and procedures for emergency response should be improved to enable better access to buildings, response operations, emergency communications, and command and control in large-scale emergencies.

NIST WTC Recommendation 21.

NIST recommends the installation of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators to improve emergency response activities in tall buildings by providing timely emergency access to responders and allowing evacuation of mobility-impaired building occupants.  Such elevators should be installed for exclusive use by emergency responders during emergencies.*  In tall buildings, consideration also should be given to installing such elevators for use by all occupants.  NIST has found that the physiological impacts on emergency responders of climbing numerous (e.g. 20 or more) storeys makes it difficult to conduct effective and timely firefighting and rescue operations in building emergencies without functioning elevators.  The use of elevators for these purposes will require additional operating procedures and protocols, as well as a requirement for release of elevator door restrictors by emergency response personnel.

[ * F-44  The access time for emergency responders, in tall building emergencies where elevators are not functioning and only stairways can be used, averages between 1 minute and 2 minutes per floor, which, for example, corresponds to between 1½ and 2 hours (depending on the amount of gear and equipment carried) to reach the 60th floor of a tall building.  Further, the physiological impact on the emergency responders of climbing more than 10 to 12 floors in a tall building makes it difficult for them to immediately begin aggressive firefighting and rescue operations.]

Affected Standards:  ASME A 17, ANSI 117.1, NFPA 70, NFPA 101, NFPA 1221, NFPA 1500, NFPA 1561, NFPA 1620, and NFPA 1710.  Model Building and Fire Codes:  The standards should be adopted in model building and fire codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

NIST WTC Recommendation 22.

NIST recommends the installation, inspection, and testing of emergency communications systems, radio communications, and associated operating protocols to ensure that the systems and protocols:  (1) are effective for large-scale emergencies in buildings with challenging radio frequency propagation environments;  and (2) can be used to identify, locate, and track emergency responders within indoor building environments and in the field.  The federal government should co-ordinate its efforts that address this need within the framework provided by the SAFECOM programme of the Department of Homeland Security.

a.     Rigorous procedures, including pre-emergency inspection and testing, should be developed and implemented for ensuring the operation of emergency communications systems and radio communications in tall buildings and other large structures (including tunnels and subways), or at locations where communications are difficult.

b.     Performance requirements should be developed for emergency communications systems and radio communications that are used within buildings or in built-up urban environments, including standards for design, testing, certification, maintenance, and inspection of such systems.

c.     An interoperable architecture for emergency communication networks – and associated operating protocols – should be developed for unit operations within and across agencies in large-scale emergencies.  The overall network architecture should cover local networking at incident sites, dispatching, and area-wide networks, considering: (a) the scale of needed communications in terms of the number of emergency responders using the system in a large-scale emergency and the organizational hierarchy; and (b) challenges associated with radio frequency propagation, especially in buildings; (c) interoperability with existing legacy emergency communications systems (i.e. between conventional two-way systems and newer wireless network systems); and (d) the need to identify, locate, and track emergency responders at an incident site.

Affected Standards:  FCC, SAFECOM, NFPA Standards on Electronic Safety Equipment, NFPA 70, NFPA 297, and NFPA 1221.  Model Building Codes:  The standards should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

NIST WTC Recommendation 23.

NIST recommends the establishment and implementation of detailed procedures and methods for gathering, processing, and delivering critical information through integration of relevant voice, video, graphical, and written data to enhance the situational awareness of all emergency responders.  An information intelligence sector* should be established to co-ordinate the effort for each incident.

[ * F-45  A group of individuals that is knowledgeable, experienced, and specifically trained in gathering, processing, and delivering information critical for emergency response operations, and is ready for activation in large and/or dangerous events.]

Affected Standards:  National Incident Management System (NIMS), NRP, SAFECOM, FCC, NFPA Standards on Electronic Safety Equipment, NFPA 1221, NFPA 1500, NFPA 1561, NFPA 1620, and NFPA 1710.  Model Building Codes:  The standards should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.

NIST WTC Recommendation 24.

NIST recommends the establishment and implementation of codes and protocols for ensuring effective and uninterrupted operation of the command and control system for large-scale building emergencies.

a.     State, local, and federal jurisdictions should implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  The jurisdictions should work with the Department of Homeland Security to review, test, evaluate, and implement an effective unified command and control system.  NIMS addresses interagency co-ordination and establishes a response matrix – assigning lead agency responsibilities for different types of emergencies, and functions.  At a minimum, each supporting agency should assign an individual to provide co-ordination with the lead agency at each incident command post.

b.     State, local, and federal emergency operations centres (EOC’s) should be located, designed, built, and operated with security and operational integrity as a key consideration.

c.     Command posts should be established outside the potential collapse footprint of any building which shows evidence of large multi-floor fires or has serious structural damage.  A continuous assessment of building stability and safety should be made in such emergencies to guide ongoing operations and enhance emergency responder safety.  The information necessary to make these assessments should be made available to those assigned responsibility (see related Recommendations 15 and 23).

d.     An effective command system should be established and operating before a large number of emergency responders and apparatus are dispatched and deployed.  Through training and drills, emergency responders and ambulances should be required to await dispatch requests from the incident command system and not to self-dispatch in large-scale emergencies.

e.     Actions should be taken via training and drills to ensure a co-ordinated and effective emergency response at all levels of the incident command chain by requiring all emergency responders that are given an assignment to immediately adopt and execute the assignment objectives.

f.     Command post information and incident operations data should be managed and broadcast to command and control centres at remote locations so that information is secure and accessible by all personnel needing the information.  Methods should be developed and implemented so that any information that is available at an interior information centre is transmitted to an emergency responder vehicle or command post outside the building.

Affected Standards:  National Incident Management System (NIMS), NRP, SAFECOM, FCC, NFPA Standards on Electronic Safety Equipment, NFPA 1221, NFPA 1500, NFPA 1561, NFPA 1620, and NFPA 1710.  Model Building Codes:  The standards should be adopted in model building codes by mandatory reference to, or incorporation of, the latest edition of the standard.