This is no fault of New York's fine first responders. The NYC emergency services switchboards were set up for failure, in essence, and to their credit did the best they could having found themselves in a situation that no one had ever faced before, and lacking reliable guidance or lessons upon which to draw.
For those of us in uniform, there is an axiom that applies: the first report is always wrong. Emergency services personnel no doubt had an incomplete and contradictory picture of the actual situation at the WTC, and fell back on their training and advised callers to "wait for help." This proved disastrous, but it was the right answer given all the uncertainty.
For those of you in the field that are unit level leaders, however, the lesson is this: you probably have a better grasp on your situation than anyone else, so don't rely too heavily on upper echelons to make the call for you. When lives are on the line, and victory may hang on the timeliness of the decision, evaluate what you know and make the call. An imperfect plan executed immediatly is always better than an ideal plan executed too late.
And for the upper echelons out there that may be reading, train your subordinates well and trust them to make good, on the spot decisions.
I salute Chapomatic for the tipper.
Open posted to Mudville Gazette and Outside the Beltway.