Criticom aids in WTC cleanup

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Monday, April 1, 2002

NEW YORK-For the last five months, Criticom International has been putting its GPS monitoring to work at one of the world's biggest disaster sites, the rubble of the former World Trade Center.

Criticom, the new name of wholesale monitoring company King-Monital-IDC (see related story), was tapped shortly after clean-up began of the former site of the twin towers, which were leveled Sept. 11 when a group of terrorists hijacked and crashed two jetliners causing both towers and a number of smaller buildings to collapse.

In all, sixteen companies were invited to submit proposals on debris removal solutions; Criticom is leading a team consisting of PowerLOC Technologies, a mobile device and system manufacturer and LynxPM, a digital photo management solutions provider, in tracking each truckload of debris as it leaves the site.

New York City's Department of Design and Construction, which is coordinating the recovery effort for the city, decided to implement GPS tracking of the debris removal to ensure the safety of the debris, considered evidence of a massive crime scene. Under the city's old paper ticket based system, trucks containing nearly 250 tons of scrap metal from the site had reportedly been diverted to dumps in Long Island and New Jersey.

The use of the GPS technology has more than doubled the number of truck loads per shift, improved the audit portion of the operation and enhanced the security of the debris removal, said Ray Menard, senior vice president of development for Criticom.

The operation is led from a monitoring center on the 30th floor of the American Express building, also known as World Financial Center building No. three, which overlooks ground zero. It is here that the trucking operations are monitored by about forty Criticom employees, Menard said.

"This was a particularly challenging aspect of the project because most of the local communications network infrastructure was wiped out or damaged, " Menard said.

Each truck that transports the debris from the downtown Manhattan site has a GPS receiver on board, which Criticom uses to track the truck's movement, location and speed.

The location information from the truck is sent to a server at Criticom's response center in Minneapolis, using a two-way wireless network operated by Cingular. The Internet-based server processes the information, produces maps and pinpointing locations; the information is then made available to all parties via the Internet, including vehicle history reports, movement tracking and sending and receiving messages from the driver. The system has an optional panic button available to the driver, as well as an optional secure camera system to take a picture of the load as it leaves the recovery site and when it arrives at the dump site.

As many as a couple of hundred to a couple of dozen trucks are making the trip to barges at two Manhattan Piers and a Brooklyn transfer station during each shift, Menard said. As the recovery effort progresses, access to debris is getting more difficult, as the bulk of the rubble now sits in a 65-foot-deep pit.

Monitoring costs per truck run about $190 per month, Menard said, in addition to the cost of each GPS unit, which runs "considerably less" than $1,000. Typically, debris removal from a disaster site makes up anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of the overall cost, he said.

Overall cleanup costs are expected to be at least $600 million. Earlier estimates had put the project costs at closer to $2 billion.