"I thought that as the mayor of New York City, I had been through every emergency and every crisis that you could go through, said Rudolph Giuliani. "We established a Mayor's Office of Emergency Management to study emergencies, figure out how we could do better and have the best plans we could have."
Speaking on leadership at Richmond Events' Logistics and Supply Chain Forum (www.richmondevents.com), Giuliani highlighted key elements of disaster preparedness and response. As a young trial lawyer, Giuliani was coached that he should have four hours of preparation for every one hour in the courtroom. Nothing unexpected should happen in the courtroom, he explained. "Something unexpected will always happen, but you'll be ready because of all the things you've prepared."
On September 11, 2001, as Giuliani looked on in horror at what was happening at the World Trade Center, he said, "This is way off the charts. We don't have a plan for this. Were going to have to make up our responses."
In fact, as Giuliani realized in a flash, he had about 25 or 30 emergency plans, plans for biological and chemical attacks, suicide bombings, building collapse, high-rise fires and plane crashes. The plans had been developed, written, practiced, revised and practiced again.
Giuliani could turn to his police commissioner and tell him to cover their "priority targets" and the commissioner would instantly notify watch commanders who would dispatch officers to predefined terror targets with practiced efficiency.
"We had to triage the hospitals because the hospitals would get overwhelmed with people that were injured," he recalled. That may have been part of a different plan for an epidemic or biological attack. And, similarly, preparations to evacuate people from Manhattan were part of one or more plans.
One of the most difficult tasks was to set up a family center to help families find information on loved ones. That was a lesson of the TWA 800 plane crash.
"I remembered the words of Judge McMahon," said Giuliani of his mentor. "Even if you are presented with something unexpected or unanticipated, if you've prepared, the answers will just be a variation of what you've prepared. I realized that every decision I was making came out of a plan.
"Facing something way beyond anything that I had ever faced before, it gave me a sense that I had some experience with this. I could relate it to things I had done. Even more importantly, this gave me more confidence [because] I knew that my people knew. I knew they would be able to relate it to things they had done before."
Giuliani's book on his experience is Leadership (Miramax Books, 2002).