Emergency Response to the Pentagon Attack

Topic 1: Emergency Response to the Pentagon Attack

What coordination and jurisdictional problems did the emergency response to the Pentagon Attack encounter?

Respond Kindly to Student #1

Damon Bradshaw

Emergency Response to the Pentagon Attack

Emergency Response to the Pentagon Attack

According to County (2002), the emergency services responding to the Pentagon Attack had various coordination and jurisdictional problems. County (2002) noted that individuals, response units, and organizations responded to the incident site without the permission and knowledge of the incident commander and host jurisdiction. The self-initiative by the various groups increased risks to responders, complicating command exercises, further exacerbating accountability challenges. In addition, the report indicated that Arlington County lacked facilities specifically equipped and designed to offer support to the functions of emergency management demonstrated in the comprehensive emergency management plan (CEMP) (County, 2002).

Coordination was further aggravated because communications proved to be problematic on both the first notification to strategic operations. It was reported in the report that oversaturation of the radio channels proved challenging to coordinate emergency efforts, with increased interoperability problems of the radio communication between agencies and jurisdictions (County, 2002). Other than pagers being the only effective form of communication, portable radios, which were compatible, had been preprogrammed, precluding interoperability. Based on the County (2002) report, Arlington County lacked installed radio capacity and depended on the portable radios assigned to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff members, making coordination hard for the responders.

County, A. (2002). After-action report on the response to the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Prepared by Titan Systems Corp.

Respond Kindly to Student #2

Diego Salgado

Emergency Response to the Pentagon Attack

            Given the magnitude and complexity of the attack on the Pentagon, several problems were meant to happen. However, the overall coordination and immediate response from all entities were surprisingly good. For example, within minutes of the crash on the Pentagon, both Battalion chief Robert Cornwall and James Schwarts of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) assumed the duties and responsibilities of Incident Command (IC) (FEMA, 2004).

            Additionally, jurisdictional confusion arises because the incident occurred in the U.S. military’s headquarters and, therefore, under the secretary of defense’s direct control, further complicating the coordination and jurisdiction response. Finally, since this was a terrorist attack, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was the lead federal agency in front of the case. Thus, the DOJ delegated authority to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for operational response according to the Federal Response Plan Terrorism Annex (FEMA, 2004).

            Even with so many challenges, there were several instances where the ACFD found quick ways to work in conjunction with the Defense Protective Service (DPS) officials to set boundaries, duties, and clear guidance to speed the response efforts. This was very important because DPS exercises exclusive Federal legislative jurisdiction at the Pentagon and its surrounding grounds. Furthermore, until September 21, the FBI officially assumed responsibility for the entire site to continue their investigations (FEMA, 2004).

            Other things also add it confusion during the response and coordination problems. FEMA (2004) further stated that “First, standardized NIIMS ICS forms should be available and used for all long-term incidents.” Second, “To every extent possible, the command structure at the incident site should be preplanned and agreed upon by area responders and public safety organizations.” Finally, “The ACFD needs access to a fully functional state-of-the-art mobile command and communications capability” (p. 14-15).

            To say some problems, affect and block some coordination response is accurate. However, the Federal Response Plan was vital in the response of the multiple agencies that answered the call and responded to this event.


FEMA. (2004). Response. In Emergency and Risk Management Case Studies Textbook (Chapter 4). Retrieved from https://training.fema.gov/hiedu/aemrc/booksdownload/emoutline/