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john65pennington's avatar

Is America better equipped today to handle another 911 attack?

Asked by john65pennington (29235points) January 24th, 2011

From live coverage of 911 that I was watching that morning, it definitely appeared that America was not prepared for this attack. I was shaving, around 9 A.M., when the news bulletin came across my tv screen. I yelled for my wife to come see this, that America was under attack. It reminded me of the attack on Pearl Harbor, only a different time and place. Panic hit the streets of New York City. People were stuck in the north and south towers with no avenue of escape. Both towers melted and collapsed like toothpicks. Question: is America better prepared to handle another 911 attack today? Will the true answer of what made the steel beams in both towers melt, ever be known?

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17 Answers

troubleinharlem's avatar

I don’t think that any country is equipped to deal with any attack of any kind. Sure, maybe we would know what to do in an emergency, but that doesn’t mean that we could be prepared for it emotionally as well as psychologically.

zenvelo's avatar

lotta questions there. I don;t think we’re better prepared. I think we are beyond the disbelief that such a thing could happen, though. So when somebody tries something on a plane they’re pretty well subdued before anything can happen. and if planes started going off towards a city I am pretty sure we would not hesitate to shoot it down if possible.

But there is no advancement in building safety, and I don’t think we’ve found a way to retrofit to handle the heat from a jet’s fuel igniting all at once. And I don’t think emergency services are significantly more prepared other than having drilled to save as many lives as possible.

YoBob's avatar

Hmm… I think the real question is not whether we are equipped to “handle” an attack, but rather are we better equipped to prevent such an attack.

Austinlad's avatar

I don’t think we’ll ever be fully prepared for a terrorist attack big or small—they’re too random, too unpredictable, too horrible, and the bad guys are surely working overtime to thwart our defenses. But hopefully 9–11 and other global attacks since have taught us how to better deal with the logistical and emotional aftermath… maybe.

filmfann's avatar

We are better prepared to stop future attacks, and to deal with those we could not stop.
Last time we were blindsided. The next time, God forbid, we will move on.

Regarding the steel in the towers: We know. A fucking jet flew into the side of the building. Yes, the steel was supposed to be insulated. No, they probably pocketed the money, figuring no one will ever find out.

Uberwench's avatar

Yes. We’re no longer led by an idiot.

josie's avatar

No, we are currently being led by people who are morally confused.

Uberwench's avatar

Something tells me Obama isn’t “morally confused” enough to not realize that terrorist attacks = bad.

Odysseus's avatar

America was perfectly equipped to handle the first 911 attack.

ragingloli's avatar

Considering that the underwear bomber was stopped by a civilian and not by one of your grossly bloated spy networks… no. Not a bit.

coffeenut's avatar

No…not even close.

Cruiser's avatar

I think so @john65pennington. A big lesson learned on 9/11 was that people want to help during crisis. A real huge problem NY faced was dealing with the thousands of volunteers that flocked to the scene those early days. FEMA’s after action report contained volumes of reports on the issues they faced and simply trying to organize all these people was almost more work than the rescue and cleanup itself. Now you need to either be a municipal employee, emergency responder or a card carrying member of organizations like the MRC, Medical Reserve Corps or CERT, Community Emergency Response Teams which is a branch of the Governments Citizen Corps. Almost every community has one or more of these in place and I encourage EVERYONE to at least get info. People will NOT be able to assist in disaster recovery unless you are a registered member of these groups. I have done a lot of work with our MRC group and the best place to start getting involved is your communities health department. They are the hub of coordinating emergency response training and deployment of local resources which in all reality will be all many communities will have if and when a biggie event occurs. There is only so much FEMA can and is prepared to do and this is a cold hard reality not may people are aware of. Again, if and when a biggie does occur, FEMA will be quickly tapped out with meeting the demands of the bigger cities and it will be up to you and your neighbors to hold down the fort and quite possibly for a long while.

As for your other question, the beams just melted John…nothing has ever been engineered to sustain an impact of a jumbo jet full of jet fuel. Just one very hot fire is all.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@josie : Morally confused?

iamthemob's avatar

@Cruiser – Thank you for that – that was an amazing contribution.

I’m going to jump off of @Cruiser‘s suggestion to emphasize it by saying that part of the response problem with Katrina in New Orleans was the federal emergency response plan was based on a bottom-up methodology, which assumed that local orgs would be the best responders because they would know where the damage was worst, etc. Of course, if the entire city infrastructure is gone…that fails. Further, the fed had to essentially be invited to help.

Strong local volunteerism helps make sure that there’s local coordinated strategy when disaster happens.

Cruiser's avatar

@iamthemob FEMA learned a lot of valuable lessons during Katrina and the big one is that the Government cannot possibly be prepared to live up to anyone’s expectations to provide for all that is or will be needed during catastrophes like that. Just not possible, practical nor feasible. The biggest issues during the Katrina response were one the floods preventing access to where help was needed and thieves stealing everything and anything. There just was not enough police support to prevent the thieves from taking a lot of stuff like the gas for the power grid generators and the generators themselves. Sure FEMA has the National Stock pile but that is a mere drop in the bucket if and when something big comes our way.

This is an issue not enough people take to heart and that is to be self sufficient during emergencies. Having at least 3 days of food, water and medicine is essential for families to have on hand just in case. Experts say 3 weeks of food and water and survivalists say 3 months or more. Just imagine how much less of a problem Katrina would have been had more people not needed help and how much less of a strain it would be on the Red Cross and other first responders had there not been so many people dependent on help for simple basics needs. FEMA and the other local efforts could then focus on putting help where really needed.

Plus living in a just in time supply day and age like we are… and water will run out in days if not hours in a real disaster and resupply could be days if not weeks away or worse. All in all emergency response is a serious set of dynamics I wish more people would take to heart!!

Qingu's avatar

I actually think America handled 9/11 rather well. The immediate response, at least.

Considering the scale of the attack, 3,000 deaths was lower than it could have been. There was panic in the streets, but not rioting. Lots of firefighters and first responders went unecessarily to their deaths, a lot of people got sick from the debris in the air, but it’s not really clear what precautions people could have known to take. As @Cruiser said, there is only a limited amount of things a top-down government can do in such a crisis; though I think it helps if the people in charge of that apparatus are actually experienced in disaster management (unlike Brown during Katrina).

We also succeeded in not retaliating against the Muslims by nuking Mecca, as I remember many people saying we should do.

But in the long term, we failed in many ways. We failed to provide health care for the first responders who risked their lives. We used fear of 9/11 as a pretext to go to war in Iraq, as a pretext for torturing prisoners of war.

In the long term, I think it is a statistical inevitability that America will suffer another terrorist attack; possibly even a nuclear attack. We are, for better or worse, the world’s hegemon/empire; there are a lot of unbalanced individuals and cult groups that absolutely hate us, and it is becoming easier and easier for a few individuals to kill massive numbers of people. Maybe we can change our foreign policy so that fewer unbalanced individuals want to blow themselves up to kill us. Or maybe we can move more towards a hypersecure police state. But ultimately, neither of these changes is going to happen “all the way,” such that there is no longer any threat from terrorists whatsoever.

What we really need is some perspective. 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. 17,000 additional people are murdered each year. Now, you can argue that we could save those lives through any number of measures: through strict gun control, through better education and opportunities, through tougher crime laws, through moving towards a police state. Maybe you could reduce the rate. But the rate is never going to be zero, because there are always going to be psychopaths and there is always going to be some way of killing people.

This doesn’t mean we should sit on our feet and accept it, but it does mean that we should stop thinking about “defending” ourselves from terrorists in military terms, as if they are MIGs invading our airspace, and start approaching terrorism in terms of crime.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, because the next attack will be different. Extremists can be extremely creative.

But we should not be scared. The overall risk on an individual level is much smaller compared to driving a car or crossing the street. We should not give up our way of life.

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