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The lessons of 9/11: How local emergency responders learned from the attacks

9-11 20 Lessons learned

9/11 20-year anniversary: Coachella Valley Remembers

The 9/11 attacks against America changed many aspects of life as we know it. The events that day 20 years ago also prompted Riverside County emergency planners to make changes in the ways they prepare and coordinate responses to any widespread disaster.

You could call it ‘lessons learned.’ Lots of lessons learned,” said Shane Reichardt, Riverside County Emergency Management Department spokesman. “We’ve implemented a number of those.”

Reichardt says he remembers getting a call from a friend telling him of the 9/11 attacks in New York and then turning on his television.

"When the second plane went in, and that's kind of when there's a certain level of panic. This just got real. This just got unreal because it's no longer a tragic accident. Somebody's doing something."

shane reichardt

“When the second plane went in, and that’s kind of when there’s a certain level of panic,” said Reichardt. “This just got real. This just got unreal because it’s no longer a tragic accident. Somebody’s doing something.”

Reichart is now the Senior Public Information Specialist for the Riverside County Emergency Management Department. He took KESQ News Channel 3’s Jeff Stahl inside one of the county’s two emergency operations centers, located in the Indio area. The other is in Riverside.

“And by us having two we eliminate the problem they have in New York where they only had one emergency operations center for the city of New York,” said Reichardt. “Unfortunately, that one center was in the World Trade Center compound.”

The city’s one and only emergency command center was in Tower 7 of the World Trade Center complex, on the 23 rd floor, and had to be evacuated minutes into the city’s biggest crisis ever.

Back then, in 2001, Riverside County had two emergency command centers. Both were in the county’s major administration centers inside large highly populated buildings. They’ve now been decentralized to less busy areas.

"A lot of agencies always looked at our training and said, 'It can't get that bad.' And unfortunately, we saw that it can."

shane reichardt

“A lot of agencies always looked at our training and said, ‘It can’t get that bad,’” said Reichardt. “And unfortunately, we saw that it can.”

Reichardt says those agencies and their people take the training more seriously now. And that makes everyone safer.

“One of the things in 9/11. They discovered it was really hard for different entities to communicate with one another,” Reichardt added.

This site in Indio is now a gathering hub for communications, operations, management, logistics, even those able to control financing. People inside the center can monitor local news, and other communications channels, meet and map out responses during a major crisis.

Touring a high-tech access-restricted room with high ceilings and loaded with computers and tv monitors, Reichardt said, “There’s a lot of information displayed on these walls, and like I said, a lot of meetings where we’re talking about what’s going on and trying to find the best ways to problem solve and return things to normal as quickly as possible.”

While it may not be activated often for large incidents, Reichardt says the county does use the Indio-area facility anytime they have a need to support events on the eastern side of the county including this August’s east valley thunderstorm damage which included widespread power outages.

“We are calling this activation an Incident Response Team since the overall incident is relatively small and does not require full activation of our Emergency Operations Center (EOC),” said Reichardt. “We have people who work specifically with people with access and functional needs, gas, and pipeline facilities,” he added.

The center contains food supplies storage, a kitchen, and bunk beds where people can take a nap and get some rest should the crisis continue for days or weeks.

The county also uses geographic-based wireless emergency alerts targeted to all cell phones and other technologies to better alert the public about what’s going on during emergencies. You can sign up for safety alerts to your smartphone at is also a resource for learning about emergency preparedness and what you can do to keep your family safe.

Read and watch more of our exclusive reports: 9/11 20 Years Later: Coachella Valley Remembers

Story: Coachella Valley military veterans reflect on 9/11 and America’s response

Story: Remembering Barbara Keating: Palm Springs resident who died in 9/11 terror attacks

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Jeff Stahl

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