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9/11 Study Urges Closer Police-Fire Communication
Mon Aug 19, 7:27 PM ET

By Atiya Hussain

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A long-awaited report on New York City police and firefighters' response to the Sept. 11 attacks showed serious mistakes were made, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed on Monday that the problems would be solved.

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The Fire Department's most serious error was sending its senior-most members to the World Trade Center, according to the study by independent consultant McKinsey & Co. released on Monday. The department lost most of its top command when the twin towers collapsed after the Sept. 11 plane attacks.

The report said problems with the Fire department's portable radios cut off communications between commanders and many firefighters in the towers.

A virtual lack of communication between police and firefighters has been widely criticized since the two hijacked jets slammed into the 110-story towers, killing nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters and 23 police officers.

On the positive side, McKinsey estimated more than 25,000 people were safely evacuated in what it said constituted the largest rescue operation in U.S. history.

The report -- commissioned by both the Police Department and the Fire Department -- said the unprecedented attacks on U.S. soil had drastically heightened the need for better preparation.

"This tragedy reshaped our expectations about future threats and created a new urgency to create preparedness," it said.

Speaking just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bloomberg said the city would make an all-out effort to ensure New Yorkers' safety.

"Nothing will be compromised," he said. "This city will do anything it can to see that the populace is protected as well as is humanly possible," he said at a conference at which he presented the results of the McKinsey report.

The report recommended the Fire Department improve its operations center, in order to allow top commanders to control rescue responses from a central location and limit the number of high-ranking officers sent to an emergency site.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said an expanded center will be operational next month.

The Fire Department intends to beef up its communications system over the next five years, Scoppetta said.

"Key in this report is the recommendation that talks about in-group coordination with the Police Department and other agencies and the Fire Department. That coordinated response to catastrophic emergencies is absolutely essential and is being addressed," he said.

The Police Department has instituted many of the changes recommended in the McKinsey report, Bloomberg said, citing a counter-terrorism bureau set up after Sept. 11 and improvements in the department's intelligence division.

McKinsey, which specializes in reviewing management practices, spent five months conducting the pro-bono study.

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