Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Inside Ground Zero, Part 2

The task of my team was to support the Corps’ Deployable Tactical Operation System (DTOS), deployed to Ground Zero from the Corps District in Mobile, Alabama. The DTOS is a contingent of self-contained mobile command posts, consisting of RV-type vehicles with office space and satellite communications. Six DTOS units were set up, four around the perimeter of the site for FDNY use, and one each for FEMA and the Corps. The FDNY units were set up at the corners of West and Vesey (West Sector), West and Liberty (Liberty Sector), Church and Liberty (Church Sector) and Church and Vesey (Vesey Sector). The Corps and FEMA units were set up near the corner of West and Vesey. My primary job was developing and implementing planning documents, such as a mission plan, safety plan, evacuation plan, and transition plan. I worked the day shift. We left our hotel, the Hilton Towers in mid-town Manhattan near Radio City Music Hall, at 6 a.m. We got back to the hotel at about 8 p.m. every night, seven days a week. The van rides back to the hotel were decompression time. I usually rode with five other women and one unlucky man. Each trip back to the hotel, we passed a gigantic billboard on E 50th Street of a guy wearing striped underwear, and each night, we hooted and hollered as if we’d never seen him before.

The site was covered with tents and trailers, homes to every conceivable organization: FDNY, NYPD, New York/New Jersey Port Authority, EPA, Coast Guard, Urban Search and Rescue, Fire Departments from all over, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and a myriad others. Our immediate neighbors were the EPA, doing regular monitoring of the air quality at the site; a search and rescue team from the Albany, New York Fire Department; and the Salvation Army. We made friends right away with all the neighbors- there was a feeling of camaraderie, and the exchange of information was very important. I would learn more about what was going on at the site at night on the news than I would after being there all day. Everyone was busy doing his or her own small part, and no one had a handle on what was going on overall. The EPA crews would borrow our golf carts to carry their monitoring equipment, and keep us updated on what they were finding. The Albany Fire Department had a good supply of ear plugs, rain ponchos, and other things that they were happy to share with us. The Salvation Army was outstanding, providing three meals a day, around the clock, out of a mobile kitchen, rain or shine.

1 comment:

sara said...

What an awesome experience that was. The best - and most gruesome, despite two warzone deployments - professional opportunity I've ever had.