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C5 response to leading during disasters

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit by a hijacked airliner, New York City Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer happened to already be on the scene. That made him the first FDNY fire chief to take command.

What we’ve learned since then, he says, is that leaders don’t simply “com­­mand and control” during a catastrophic event. They go beyond that.

Today, Pfeifer is the FDNY’s chief of counterterrorism and emergency preparedness. And he uses what he learned from 9/11 about leading during a disaster—whether it’s an emergency response or a business crisis. He calls it C5—command and control, connect, collaborate and coordinate:

First, hastily form networks at the scene of the incident, so teams can com­­municate and work together. Once in place, people need to collaborate.

“As the stress of an incident in­­creases,” Pfeifer says, “groups turn to their own: firefighters go to firefighters, police go to police. But during a disaster, we need just the opposite. We need them to collaborate.”

Finally, to get the job done, networks have to coordinate resources. “It’s not just one resource, it involves multiple resources,” he says.

For example, during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Coast Guard spotted fires, the fire department fought fires, and law enforcement provided firefighters protection.

In the end, “when we look at leadership during a disaster, it is the combination” that makes the difference.

— Adapted from “Leading on 9/11 and Beyond: New York City Fire Department’s Joseph Pfeifer,” Knowledge@Wharton.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

les raphael January 18, 2012 at 6:38 am

More 9/11 nonsense. Pfeifer was nothing of the kind “on the scene” when the North Tower was hit : he watched it happen from 14 blocks away, as filmed by Jules Naudet, the only person in New York who captured the first hit – if only because he knew it was going to happen, and was complicit in the atrocity. So was Pfeifer, and so was everyone else in the Naudet film, a showpiece scripted long in advance by the CIA and the Pentagon. These folk are all, like Myers, Cheney, Tenet, Rumsfeld and the rest of the gang, lying frauds and murderers who are going to be brought to justice, sooner than they delude themselves.


naudetsleuth December 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

In his big movie role, how come his fellow firefighters who “turn to their own” never noticed that he didn’t return from Ground Zero? Rookie Tony finally shows up and they all sigh in relief because everyone’s back. As though they forgot all about their chief.


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