Protecting the health and safety of rescue
and recovery workers
The full extent of the injury and illnesses suffered by rescue and recovery workers after the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster is not known, but clearly thousands of incidents occurred. Unfortunately, protection for workers at Ground Zero was given a relatively low priority. 1This chapter examines the events at the WTC disaster site and, to a lesser degree, at the Pentagon, and provides recommendations for protecting rescue and recovery workers after terrorist attacks.
The destruction of the WTC, then the world's largest office complex, and the extensive damage to the Pentagon, the largest office complex under one roof, created extraordinarily dangerous environments for rescue and recovery workers and required them to face an exceptional array of hazards. The force of the collapse of the WTC's Twin Towers pulverized 425,000 cubic yards of concrete, and the collapse and fire twisted 200,000 tons of steel beams, intertwining them with the cables from the 104 elevators in each tower and miles of rebar from the concrete. The resulting six-story, shifting pile of debris was potentially life-threatening to any rescue or recovery worker attempting to move over, under, or around it. When combined with the open