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City of Lincoln
Fire & Rescue Department
Nebraska Task Force 1 (NETF1)

World Trade Center Attacks, Sept. 11th


NE-TF1 Members Participation in the Pentagon
September 11, 2001

Shortly after 8:45 a.m. CST September 11 the monthly meeting of the Lincoln Fire Department Deputy Chiefs was interrupted to inform those attending that an aircraft had just struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. During the television coverage, a second aircraft struck the second tower, and shortly after that a third aircraft crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

At 9:06 a.m., moments after the assault on the Pentagon, Deputy Chief John Huff received a page advising that the Red Incident Support Team (IST) had been activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Members of the Red team were informed that the Pentagon incident would be their assignment. Huff advised Fire Chief Mike Spadt that his IST had been activated, and requested permission to begin preparations to respond. Chief Spadt and Huff agreed that traveling by aircraft might be unsafe and determined that John would respond with a Lincoln Fire & Rescue vehicle.

Keith Houfek, an Emergency Services Dispatcher with the city's Emergency Communications/911 Center and a member of the pool of trained IST alternates, contacted Huff to advise that he was available for deployment. During the pre-travel preparation, John contacted FEMA and informed them that he would be traveling by ground. Because of the distance and driving time, estimated at 20 hours, Huff requested that Houfek be put on the roster to replace an IST member from California, who may not be able to respond quickly due to anticipated air travel difficulties. FEMA approved this plan. Huff would serve as the overall IST Leader and Houfek would serve as the Communications Unit Leader. The two departed Lincoln at 10:55 a.m., less than two hours after notification.

FEMA has established three incident support teams -- Red, White and Blue -- each of which is on call once every three months. The White team was on call in September, and was dispatched to the New York City incident. Because the Red team was next in the rotation (the first to deploy in October), it was dispatched to the second incident.

Each IST roster was selected by Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) experts, currently participating as FEMA US&R task force members. The IST teams were selected and trained over the past two years in FEMA's ongoing effort to assure that the US&R program is able to respond when needed. Each team is organized using the Incident Command System (ICS) and is capable of responding within two hours of activation. Each member is able to travel to an incident and operate for as long as 24 hours without support. Members are selected for their expertise, and come from across the U.S. FEMA has developed IST equipment caches which are strategically located in the country for rapid deployment when needed.

Huff and Houfek drove the more than1,200 miles with only brief stops, arriving at about 8 a.m. September 12. They immediately began work forming the IST with other members who were on scene or arrived shortly after. The Incident Support Team Advanced (IST-A) element is comprised of about 20 key positions, which are essential in the early stages of an incident to assure that if needed, additional resources would be sent. As the need was better understood several days after the attack, a 38-person Incident Management Team from the U.S. Forest Service was integrated into the IST under the IST command and control.

The Pentagon is in Arlington, Virginia's jurisdiction, and units from the Arlington Fire Department were first responders to the building. They immediately requested additional support from surrounding jurisdictions, including Alexandria, Fairfax, Montgomery County and others. As the IST began operations on Wednesday, two task forces Fairfax-TF1 and Montgomery County-TF1 -- had already begun operations on Tuesday. Two additional teams --Memphis, Tennessee-TF1 and Virginia Beach, Virginia-TF2 -- were en route and arrived late on Tuesday and Wednesday. In addition, members of the Military District of Washington Engineer Corps (MDWEC) were integrated into the search and shoring operations. This provided the equivalent of six US&R teams on site. In addition, the U.S. Army provided hundreds of soldiers to provide a labor pool work force. This work force received its daily task orders from the IST Operations Chief, who developed the daily work plan within the IST frame work.

A unified command was established by the Arlington Fire Department with a five-member command. During each operational period, Huff, the US&R IST Leader, met every four hours with the on site Arlington Incident Commander, the on-site Arlington Police Department Commander, the onsite head of the FBI investigation and representatives from the Pentagon.

This mission was extremely complex due to the nature of the incident and the building. The incident was a plane crash, structure fire, structural collapse and a crime scene. In addition, the building houses the seat of our United States Military and contains many classified and top secret items. Every agency that responded had a legitimate interest and concern from its vantage point. The unified command was an excellent method to assure that each agency was utilized effectively and that its requirements were met.

The IST-A began 24-hour operations providing Task Force support, inter-Task Force coordination, and interface with the local jurisdiction acting within the Federal Response Plan and Emergency Support Function 9. During the first operational period, the IST created a written Memorandum of Understanding with Arlington Fire to define the expectations of the Arlington Incident Commander. The overall goals of the US&R program are to integrate the FEMA teams into a local jurisdiction's incident management system and provide technical and canine search, structural shoring, and victim rescue and recovery.

At 5:30 pm September 22, Huff and Houfek were released for return travel to Lincoln. They drove back to Lincoln, arriving about 2 p.m. September 23.

As Communications Unit Leader, Houfek was responsible for assuring that all four Task Forces and the IST radio systems were set up, and that radio and other communications were functioning properly. Throughout the mission, communications operations were supported and managed to assure that Task Forces were able to function in the field. Houfek had a staff of six communication specialists assigned during this incident.

Both Huff and Houfek were on the day operational period from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A daily shift briefing was conducted 30 minutes prior to the beginning of each operational period. Each day began with a daily face to face meeting with the off going shift at 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. prior to the shift briefing. Daily building walk-through surveys were conducted to observe progress during the shift, and to assist in the development of the operational plan for the next work period. At the end of each work period, the same process occurred. This pattern was repeated until the mission was completed at 7 p.m. September 20.

The IST Base of Operations (BOO) was dismantled during the morning and early afternoon on September 21. During the afternoon of September 21 and all day on the 22nd, the IST met to complete after-action reporting requirements, conduct critical stress debriefing and conclude documentation for FEMA headquarters.

Huff and Houfek were released by FEMA from the Pentagon mission and returned to Lincoln on Sunday September 23, arriving home September 24.

Fire & Rescue Department

Deployments & Alerts
September 11, 2001