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NEW YORK CITY-A 26-page staff report issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks questions various emergency procedures utilized during the World Trade Center evacuation on Sept. 11, 2001. Cited in the report were a locked roof door, not directing tenants into stairwells during drills and the lack of a plan in place to rescue people on floors above a fire. Also tenants were not made aware that rooftop evacuations were not possible.

Poor communication and lack of knowledge of proper evacuation procedures “proved costly,” Thomas H. Kean, chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks and Lee H. Hamilton, vice chair, said at the conclusion of a two-day hearing held here. While the 9/11 Commission did point out the nearly $250-million improvements the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had put in place since the bombing in 1993 did contribute to the evacuation process, it said few tenants in the complex had a plan or exercised an emergency preparedness plan.

When Silverstein Properties acquired the lease-hold interest on the World Trade Center from the Port Authority in a $3.2-billion transaction with retail partner Westfield America in July 2001, GlobeSt.com reported on the 90-day transition process where Port Authority employees served in an advisory capacity. Under that arrangement, the PA retained oversight of the complex’s building, fire, environmental and health codes.In testimony, Alan Reiss, who served as the Port Authority’s director of the World Trade Department in the World Trade Center and is now deputy director of aviation for the PA, detailed the extensive upgrades the authority made to the complex and explained how he was among a group of PA employees assisting in the transition process at the time of the attacks. With Silverstein on board, he testified that the PA’s role in “managing all aspects of the complex changed substantially.” Silverstein brought on or reassigned staff including a fire-safety director, maintenance manager, operations manager and a security director as part of the natural transition process.

Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority are currently working together on the reconstruction of 7 World Trade Center. “The standards applied to 7 World Trade Center will be applied to all new construction at the World Center site and are expected to serve as a model for construction of safe and secure buildings across the nation,” Reiss said.

A Silverstein spokesperson said the firm had no comment on the hearing. The 9/11 commission was established in 2002 to compile a comprehensive examination of the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

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