Dr. Thomas D. O'Rourke
Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Engineering
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Lessons Learned From the World Trade Center Disaster for Critical Infrastructure


The consequences of the WTC Disaster on critical infrastructure are explored by reviewing the response of water supply, electrical power, telecommunications, and transportation networks to this unique and unsettling event. The damage associated with the disaster is unparalleled and tells us much about the behavior of complex systems that support modern urban communities. The effects of water distribution system damage on fire fighting and emergency services are addressed. The characteristics of damage and systems performance resulting from the WTC Disaster are compared with those of other major incidents in NYC and with the performance of lifelines during and after earthquakes. Conclusions are drawn with respect to the causes of damage, factors affecting the spread and constraint of damage, and factors that contribute to both the resiliency of urban infrastructure and the attendant services necessary to respond effectively to extreme events.

Short Biography

Professor O'Rourke has been a member of the teaching and research staffs at Cornell University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His teaching and professional practice have covered many aspects of geotechnical engineering including foundations, earth retaining structures, slope stability, soil/structure interaction, underground construction, laboratory testing, and elements of earthquake engineering. He has authored or co-authored over 280 publications on geotechnical, underground, and earthquake engineering. His long list of achievements includes election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1993, recipient of numerous ASCE awards, and the 1996 EERI Outstanding Paper Award. He is a member of the ASCE, ASME, ASTM, AAAS, ISSMEE, EERI, and IAEG. In 1998, he was elected to the EERI Board of Directors and serves as President from 2003-2005. He is a member of the NSF Engineering Directorate Advisory Committee, and serves on the Executive Committee of MCEER. He is a past chair of the ASCE Earth Retaining Structures Committee, as well as past president of the ASCE Ithaca Section, and was a member of the intermunicipal water commission in his hometown.


Monday, March 17th, 2003


4:30 - 6:00 PM EST

Viewing Instructions

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Discussions and Feedback

If you would like to ask questions regarding the topic being presented, you can send an e-mail to mceerwebcast@civil.eng.buffalo.edu during or after the presentation. If time allows, an attempt will be made to convey any questions received during the presentation to the presenter to answer live during discussions. Other questions will be collected and sent to the presenter, whose answers will subsequently be posted on this website.


Seminar sponsored by MCEER Networking and Education Programs, MCEER SLC and hosted by the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and the EERI Student Chapter at UB. For further information please contact Jeff Berman of the MCEER-SLC at (716) 645-2114 (ext.2437).


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