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Volume 27, Issue 4

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"We are Back in Business!": Cleaning up after the World Trade Center Bombing

On the evening of the occurrence, at the request of the Port Authority’s Risk Management Department, representatives of The Restoration Company responded to the scene. During the following days, assessment of the smoke damage was performed by TRC.

Initial Activities

From our initial discussions with the Port Authority Risk Management Team, some of the prime areas of concern were the overall coordination of efforts, security, sub-contractor interface, tenant liaison, health and safety, supplies, communications and establishment of priorities and a critical path for the flow of the work. The task was monumental. Our goal was to clean 220 floors, some 8.8 million square feet of space in 14 days.

With that in mind, our initial activities centered around readiness and getting all of our resources in place, so we could accomplish what was asked of us.

Critical to the successful completion of this project, a sound chain of command was created in order to assign specific responsibilities to various jobs. In addition, project coordinators handled all of the initial communications with the Port Authority Risk Management staff, and the World Trade Center operations staff. The scope of work was to perform a detail cleaning of all structural surfaces, and “cursory” cleaning of all tenant contents in an effort to minimize business interruption.

To provide these services, TRC forecasted that approximately three shifts of 900 laborers would be required. Anticipating a swift resolution of contract issues, TRC’s management team was assigned areas of responsibility and began to work.

As expected, seemingly normal functions took on monumental proportions due to the magnitude of the undertaking. For example, the several hundred thousands of dry sponges, thousands of gallons of cleaning solutions, cleaning cloths, HEPA vacuums, carpet and upholstery equipment, tons of odor neutralants, and other supplies that would be utilized to do the bulk of the cleaning had to be quickly obtained in suitable quantities in order to prevent any work stoppages due to lack of supplies. An affiliated company, Live-Air Chemical, was successful in obtaining the suitable quantities. Almost immediately, trailer loads of supplies began arriving at the World Trade Center.

Before any cleaning could begin, laborers with some degree of training needed to be hired. The three in-house janitorial firms were hired as sub-contractors to provide the 900 laborers required per shift. Among the union trades represented, we successfully negotiated with janitorial, electrical, window cleaners, riggers, marble/stainless steel cleaners and exterminator/pest control unions.

From the onset, security and safety were two prime concerns. When 2,700 laborers are spread out over nearly 9,000,000 square feet of space on 220 floors, security and safety are critical issues. Effective interfacing with NYC police, Port Authority police and the contracted security provider, City Wide Security, was imperative. In order to establish a secure control of the 2,700 laborers working three shifts per day, workers were issued special photo ID badges. Work crews were divided into manageable groups which were supervised by two union supervisors and one TRC supervisor. Fire watch and floor security were in place. Each TRC supervisor was issued a two-way radio, to communicate any emergencies that might arise.

Due to the high visibility of this incident, OSHA representatives were actively monitoring all of the work going on in the property. Our health and safety officer spent days interfacing with the appropriate safety representatives of The World Trade Center Operations in an effort to fine tune the approved safety program to fit the special needs and requirements of the project. Classes were conducted to insure safety of all persons connected with the large and complicated project. TRC shift supervisors were charged with the front line task of safety compliance in order to prevent lost time injuries while performing our duties. As a result, the project recorded no significant lost time injuries during the entire time of the project.

Accounting of the costs involved, also proved to be an intricate assignment. TRC brought in an accounting staff in order to keep abreast of the heavy daily flow of paperwork. Working alongside the insurance companies, a reasonable framework was quickly established that facilitated the accurate tracking of management staff, labor, equipment and materials to be utilized while performing the work. Inventories were verified as each item was received and each time an item was issued.

Voice communications also proved to be a challenge. Due to the volume of supervisors that required voice linkage to the senior management team. Hundreds of two way radios were purchased. Also a high powered repeater installed on the 54th floor of a hotel across the street in an effort to maintain a high level of communication with the staff. Once on the floor, the only link the supervisory staff had were the radios used to communicate everything from safety and security situations to ordering of supplies for the necessary work. Without a sound communications program it would be nearly impossible to complete the volume of work required in the allotted time.

In TRC’s Operations Command Center, various visual aids were utilized in order to graph and chart the current status of the project and location of all the work crews. The Port Authority and WTC Operations had pre-established priority zones and critical paths. Therefore, the work could not be completed in a top to bottom fashion. That being the case, it was vital for TRC’s management staff to know exactly where our crews were and predict how long they would be there. Crew movements, from priority zones to new priority zones, required a thorough knowledge of the status of the project.

Scope of Work

The key consideration was the minimization of business interruption for The World Trade Center and the Port Authority.
The goal of the cursory cleaning of tenant contents was to allow swifter access by the tenants to their space, without exposing them to the gross effects of the contamination. During initial inspections of both towers, a relatively uniform coating of soot fallout was discovered throughout the property. Simply cleaning the structural surfaces would not immediately render the affected office spaces tenable, hence the decision to clean all of the grossly exposed surfaces.

Due to the natural bellows effect of elevators and elevator shafts, it was necessary to clean, deodorize and encapsulate the interior surfaces of the shafts and the exterior surfaces of the cars. All affected stairway surfaces, such as floors, steps, landings, railings, signage, and related surfaces were hand cleaned and deodorized. Building services were described as areas including bathrooms, janitor rooms, closets, electrical rooms and telecommunications rooms. These areas were thoroughly hand cleaned and deodorized.

Hard surface furniture was hand cleaned using either dry sponges or masslinn cloths. Papers, books, files, were hand cleaned in place, utilizing dry sponges or masslinn cloths. Upholstered furniture was vacuumed, steam extraction or dry cleaned. Fabric partitions were dry sponge cleaned. General contents, such as decorative accessories, desk top accessories, and wall hangings were cleaned using dry sponges or masslinn cloths. High tech equipment was cleaned, exterior only, utilizing either damp cloth or masslinn cloth, as required.

As soon as a floor was completed and checked by TRCs QC staff, representatives of The Port Authority and World Trade Center operations conducted a joint inspection of the completed floors. A checklist was developed and sign off and acceptance of the finished floors was completed. In some cases, where “punch list” items required further attention, a roving crew was assigned to complete the depicted tasks. The areas were then re-inspected and final acceptance was indicated.

Was the restoration of the property successful? Absolutely! Governor Mario Cuomo, returning to his offices on the 57th floor of Tower Two was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “This is really amazing; I did not dream that you could get it this clean, this quickly!” The Port Authority’s executive committee and media staff had predicted a mid- to-late April opening of the Towers. Tower Two opened on March 26th, while Tower One opened April 1st.

In 16 days (two days were virtually lost due to the “Blizzard of ’93" that paralyzed the city), TRC utilized 384 hours to complete the work over 8.8 million square feet of structure and contents. That means overall we achieved a completion rate of some 22,000 square feet per hour (the equivalent of a dozen 2,000-square-foot homes!).

Another key to our success was a clear vision of the work required and a management team that was committed to making the vision a reality. We are honored by the fact that the insurance companies and The Port Authority trusted our ability to produce what we had committed to them in our early discussions.


Bill Boss is assistant vice president of corporate sales and marketing.

This article adapted from Vol. 6 #2.

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