Crisis plan, tech helped NYC
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 13, 2001
In recounting the horrors of Sept. 11, two top New York City officials detailed
how crisis planning and the use of technology helped the government restore
services and aid emergency workers.
Avi Duvdevani, acting commissioner for the city's information technology
department, and Joseph Lhota, deputy mayor of operations, said that because
the city had developed a comprehensive emergency plan, city personnel were
able to respond quickly and effectively, despite the destruction of the
command center in the World Trade Center, and recover from communications
problems they encountered early on.
The New York City officials spoke during this week's annual conference
of the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NECCC), an alliance
of several national associations representing state government officials.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Duvdevani said his department's main
priority was to figure out how to restore government services at City Hall
and the Municipal Building, a large seat of government for other elected
officials. Both buildings were evacuated. That meant providing computer
and other technology services to government employees.
While Verizon was working to restore voice communications, Duvdevani
said that the city's Web site (www.nyc.gov) became
a resource for disseminating information to the public and media. Volume
of traffic was 100 times greater than normal, he said.
Lhota, who gave a nearly minute-by-minute account of his actions Sept.
11, said the only communications devices that worked were walkie-talkies
and Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry wireless messaging devices.
He said that when the $13 million state-of-the-art command center, housed
in building seven of the World Trade Center and designed to withstand natural
disasters and bombs, was destroyed, the city had to scramble to create a
makeshift center. He said the city didn't have a redundant center because
officials didn't think they would need one.
He said that help from about 100 companies that donated computers and
other supplies proved valuable in the recovery efforts. He also said that
geographic information system mapping technology helped firefighters locate
an underground fire in the area and 3-D imaging helped evaluate the structural
integrity of buildings.
Both officials credited planning for the Year 2000 problem in helping
the city deal with the aftermath of the attacks. In preparing for the Year
2000 date change, city officials went through agency critical and operational
Basil Nikas, an NECCC board member who moderated the sessions, said
few governments have business continuity plans in place in case of an attack,
and corporations aren't even taking it seriously.
NECCC likely will develop workgroups in the coming year on homeland
security, business continuity and even one on a national identification
card, said Nikas, who also is chief executive officer of iNetPurchasing