Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

9/11 Has Led To Greater Prudence In Designing Systems That Can Withstand Extreme Events, Cornell Engineers Say

Date:
May 30, 2003
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Thomas O'Rourke and his Cornell colleagues, Arthur Lembo, research associate in crop and soil sciences, and Linda Nozick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, have spent the past two years analyzing the impacts that brought down the twin towers. By studying this and other disasters, O'Rourke says, engineers will be able to give valuable advice to a society still struggling with how best to avoid future tragedies.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Thomas O'Rourke illustrates the effects of the World Trade Center destruction with a quote from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land: "The awful daring of a moment's surrender/ Which an age of prudence can never retract/ By this, and this only, we have existed."

For O'Rourke, the Thomas R. Briggs Professor in Cornell University's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the poet's words sum up the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001: a moment of unforeseen catastrophe that society will pay for with "an age of prudence."

O'Rourke and his Cornell colleagues, Arthur Lembo, research associate in crop and soil sciences, and Linda Nozick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, have spent the past two years analyzing the impacts that brought down the twin towers. By studying this and other disasters, O'Rourke says, engineers will be able to give valuable advice to a society still struggling with how best to avoid future tragedies.

The results of the group's study will be a chapter in a book to be published this summer, Impacts of and Human Response to the September 11, 2001 Disasters: What Research Tells Us (Natural Hazards Research and Information Center, 2003).

The book is the result of a National Science Foundation-funded, rapid-response effort to document the effects of the attack on the World Trade Center. The Cornell team focused on the underground infrastructure -- the telephone and electrical systems, water and gas pipes, and subterranean transportation networks -- that had been damaged in the attack.

By analyzing this damage, the team sought to discover ways for urban planners to minimize the effects of future disasters. "We need to understand that terrorism and acts of violence against public works are part of a larger complex of disasters and extreme events that affect our infrastructure," says O'Rourke. "Other extreme events that have similar, if not greater, consequences are earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and severe accidents."

As catastrophic as the World Trade Center damage was, the team found many factors that helped reduce infrastructure disruption. A compartmentalized electrical system (used extensively in New York City but infrequently elsewhere) meant that the blackout in lower Manhattan was confined to a limited number of local distribution systems rather than cascading through a large part of the network. When most telephone calls were blocked in the area, emergency personnel were able to communicate through the Web and e-mail via handheld Blackberry devices, highlighting the importance of wireless e-mail when telephone systems are damaged or disrupted. And a fleet of fireboats pumping water from the Hudson River allowed firefighters to work effectively, even though pressure in water mains, ruptured by fallen debris, dropped to dangerously low levels.

The Cornell team also discovered stories of heroism on the part of New York City's utility workers. On the day of the attack, says Lembo, telephone workers went into the flooded Verizon building just north of World Trade Center 6, risking electrocution in chest-deep water and kerosene to shut off the building's massive circuit breakers by hand. Like the city's police, firefighters and emergency workers, he says, utility workers were running into the World Trade Center complex while other people were running out.

"They accomplished in six days what probably would have been expected to take over 20," says Lembo. "It was Herculean, when you consider that over 70,000 copper wires were severed when steel beams from WTC 2 ripped right through underground cable vaults."

One important outcome of the study, O'Rourke notes, are questions of who should have access to information about infrastructure. Although the researchers had hoped to obtain Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps of the underground infrastructure, city officials and utility companies considered such information too sensitive to distribute. Also for security reasons, the researchers were unable to obtain clearance to publish some of their results.

The post-9/11 restriction of access to GIS data could be a major setback to engineers and urban planners, says O'Rourke. "This is a major issue for people who care about their society and their government. There's no question, we can't allow information to go out with the openness that we used to," he says. "I just think that we need to work a little harder about coming up with policies about who has access and who doesn't. My concern is that we don't replace what should be an age of prudence with an age of paranoia."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "9/11 Has Led To Greater Prudence In Designing Systems That Can Withstand Extreme Events, Cornell Engineers Say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530082357.htm>.
Cornell University. (2003, May 30). 9/11 Has Led To Greater Prudence In Designing Systems That Can Withstand Extreme Events, Cornell Engineers Say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530082357.htm
Cornell University. "9/11 Has Led To Greater Prudence In Designing Systems That Can Withstand Extreme Events, Cornell Engineers Say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530082357.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Robotic Eyes' Helps Japan's Bipedal Bot Run Faster

'Robotic Eyes' Helps Japan's Bipedal Bot Run Faster

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 16, 2014) Japanese researcher uses an eye-sensor camera to enable a bipedal robot to balance itself, while running on a treadmill. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lockheed Martin's Fusion Concept Basically An Advertisement

Lockheed Martin's Fusion Concept Basically An Advertisement

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Lockheed Martin announced plans to develop the first-ever compact nuclear fusion reactor. But some experts said the excitement is a little premature. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

Buzz60 (Oct. 15, 2014) A Google Glass user was treated for Internet Addiction Disorder caused from overuse of the device. Morgan Manousos (@MorganManousos) has the details on how many hours he spent wearing the glasses, and what his symptoms were. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Science Proves Why Pizza Is So Delicious

Science Proves Why Pizza Is So Delicious

Buzz60 (Oct. 15, 2014) The American Chemical Society’s latest video about chemistry in every day life breaks down pizza, and explains exactly why it's so delicious. Gillian Pensavalle (@GillianWithaG) has the video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins