9/11 World Trade Center Attacks: Lessons in Fire Safety Engineering After the Collapse of the Towers
|September, by Gerhard Richter 2005, at MoMA.|
Every engineering discipline has been shaken by tragic events at some point. Ralph W. Emerson (1803–1882) wrote that “We learn geology the morning after the earthquake”. Humans tend to identify gaps of knowledge after a catastrophe. Over time, progress and modern societies have established the means to set up major independent investigations after a technological disaster strikes. Their objective is to unearth the causes and learn lessons from the event so that similar catastrophes are avoided in future. In order for this to happen, it is essential that the results of the investigations are widely disseminated and that the scientific community carefully analyses them, critically assesses them and further improves the conclusions and lessons. This special issue invites the fire safety engineering community to just do that with respect to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York.
WTC towers 1, 2, 5 and 7 collapsed because of the fires triggered by the attacks. From causes to consequences, this disaster touched on a wide range of scientific disciplines. Understanding it thus requires a multidisciplinary approach, and its most important elements are covered in this special issue.
This is perhaps best illustrated by an example. In September 2011, 10 years after the attacks, the international magazine Scientific American published an article (“Castles in the Air”) on the WTC disaster’s effect on the design of new tall buildings. It concluded that high rise buildings needed to be kept away from aircrafts and should have means for prompt evacuation; it did not discuss protection from fire. However, WTC 1, 2, 5 and 7 collapsed because of the fires the attacks had triggered—they had resisted the aircraft impacts (WTC 5 and 7 were not even hit) and most of the occupants below the floors of impact were able to safely evacuate.
The full reference is:
G Rein, 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks: Lessons in Fire Safety Engineering After the Collapse of the Towers, Fire Technology 2013 (in press). http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10694-013-0337-6.