Study: How World Trade Center Evacuees Left WTC Area Following Attacks

A survivor survey of the World Trade Center attacks shows anticipating people stopping for information and the seeking out of others in crises are critical factors in emergency planning.

How people leave a devastated area such as the World Trade Center (WTC) after the 9/11 attacks is critical to their ability to cope with the risks they face while evacuating, thus affecting their chances of survival, according to new research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Planning has to be adapted at every level to meet the need for sudden action in a catastrophic situation,” according to the authors.

A survey of WTC evacuees after the 9/11 attacks found when they were leaving the buildings, they stopped to seek information and to connect with co-workers or friends. Approximately one-half of the respondents immediately departed the area and one-half did not evacuate quickly. Almost 73 percent of those who had not left immediately said they “stopped to see what was happening and/or get more information or assistance,” and 53 percent said they “stopped to look for friends or co-workers.” One of the major findings of the survey is that people’s comfort level and ability to take action during uncertain situations is apparently higher in the presence of people they know, a conclusion that emergency planners may increasingly need to take into account.

The paper, entitled “To Leave an Area after Disaster: How Evacuees from the World Trade Center Buildings Left the WTC Area Following the Attacks,” was authored by Rae Zimmerman of New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and Martin F. Sherman of Loyola University Maryland. The research was funded by CDC through the Association of Schools of Public Health, and presents an analysis of Columbia University’s WTC Evacuation Study (WTCES) data that focused on 1,444 evacuees to evaluate the factors affecting the length of time to initiate and complete the evacuation of occupants from the Towers.

WTC evacuees needed information about escaping not only the buildings, but also the immediate surroundings where falling debris was a constant threat. Information about public transportation options also was a key need.

The study found 28 percent of respondents said they “didn’t know where to go” and 15 percent said they “were not given directions.” According to the researchers, “such communication is important to overcome what is common in some circumstances – denial of the threat.” After deciding to evacuate, about 40 percent gathered up personal items such as keys, laptops, handbags, and files. Those who waited for instructions while still in the building were 1.5 times more likely to have not left the area immediately than those who did. Having undergone fire safety training also led to faster evacuation patterns, the study found.

The study also focused on how people made their way to their initial and ultimate destinations and found those who lived further away tended to quickly evacuate the entire area, sparing them exposure to additional risks. Communicating information about available public transportation is crucial in densely populated areas, but much of the focus has been on communication activity within the Towers prior to and during their collapse, according to the authors.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Complete Online Safety Training Courses

    Deliver state-of-the art, online safety training courses to your organization with IndustrySafe Training Management Software. Generate reports to track training compliance and automatically notify learners of upcoming or overdue classes.

  • Easy to Use Safety Inspection App

    Conduct inspections on the go with IndustrySafe’s mobile app. Complete safety audits at job sites and remote locations—with or without web access.

  • Track Key Safety Performance Indicators

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations to easily track safety KPIs and metrics. Gain increased visibility into your business’ operations and safety data.

  • Analyze Incident Data and Maintain OSHA Compliance

    Collect relevant incident data, analyze trends, and generate accurate regulatory reports, including OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 logs, through IndustrySafe’s extensive incident reporting and investigation module.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus