Chapter 3. Final Reports of the Federal Building and Fire Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster


The collapse of New York City’s World Trade Center (WTC) structures following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was the worst building disaster in recorded history, killing some 2,800 people. More than 350 fire and emergency responders were among those killed, the largest loss of life for this group in a single incident.

Genesis of This Investigation

Immediately following the terrorist attack on the WTC on September 11, 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers began planning a building performance study of the disaster. The week of October 7, as soon as the rescue and search efforts ceased, the Building Performance Study Team went to the site and began its assessment. This was to be a brief effort, as the study team consisted of experts who largely volunteered their time away from their other professional commitments. The Building Performance Study issued its report in May 2002, fulfilling its goal “to determine probable failure mechanisms and to identify areas of future investigation that could lead to practical measures for improving the damage resistance of buildings against such unforeseen events.”

On August 21, 2002, with funding from the U.S. Congress, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced its building and fire safety investigation of the WTC disaster. On October ...

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