Jerome Hauer, 71, Manager of Catastrophes and Other Crises, Dies
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Jerome Hauer, 71, Manager of Catastrophes and Other Crises, Dies

Feb 10, 2024


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Working for New York City, New York State and the U.S. government, he made a career of preparing for the worst and then dealing with it, from 9/11 to hurricanes.

By Sam Roberts

Jerome M. Hauer, who as the first director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management oversaw New York City’s response to floods, manhole explosions, mold outbreaks, building collapses, water main breaks, blackouts, hurricanes, sink holes, downed trees, terrorist threats, vermin and the uncertain digital impact on computer networks of Y2K, the turn of the millennium, died on Aug. 11 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 71.

The cause was prostate cancer, his wife, Traci L. Hauer, said.

Working under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani from 1996 to 2000, Mr. Hauer “won widespread cooperation” from other city agencies and from the state and federal governments, the urban historian Fred Siegel wrote in “The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life” (2005). He was “a big, plain-spoken and knowledgeable man,” added Mr. Siegel, who died in May.

Mr. Hauer developed an early and comprehensive response to the threat of a bioterrorism attack and to the proliferation of the West Nile virus in the city, rallying relevant agencies to the cause. He later took what he had learned working for the city and applied it to emergency and risk management jobs for New York State and for the federal government, both during and after major crises — including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the subsequent anthrax threat and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“He was a unicorn, a truly singular individual, a man for crises in all seasons,” William J. Bratton, who as New York’s police commissioner worked with Mr. Hauer in city government, said in a phone interview.

As part of his job for the city, Mr. Hauer worked to integrate the Police and Fire Departments and other agencies, long at odds with one another, into a harmonic army of emergency medical workers.

“Hauer brought an energy to the role, molding a team of a dozen cops, E.M.T.s and firefighters into an elite group of crisis managers,” said Joseph J. Lhota, who had been a deputy mayor under Mr. Giuliani.

But Mr. Hauer struggled mightily in trying to coordinate seamless emergency response efforts. He was often stymied by turf wars and other rivalries unresolved by City Hall.

On Sept. 11, 2001, for example, after he had left city government and was working for the federal government, many hand-held radios equipped for frequencies that would have allowed the police and firefighters to communicate with one another at the World Trade Center site had not been distributed.

Mr. Hauer had left his city office in February 2000, the year after he oversaw the opening of a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, which was hailed by many of his state and federal counterparts in emergency preparedness. But critics questioned why the center was sited across the street from a 1993 terrorist bombing in another Trade Center building. The command center was destroyed when the building collapsed, along with the Trade Center’s North and South Towers, on Sept. 11.

In response to the criticism, Mr. Hauer later produced a memo from 1996 in which he had recommended a Downtown Brooklyn location as a “good alternative” for the command center. But that idea, he said, was overruled by the mayor, who wanted the center to be within walking distance of City Hall. Mr. Giuliani said Mr. Hauer had signed off on the ultimate decision.

Jerome Maurice Hauer was born on Oct. 31, 1951, at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, where his mother, Rose (Muscatine) Hauer, was vice president for nursing and dean emerita of the Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing. His father, Milton G. Hauer, was vice president of Williams & Company, a real estate firm.

Jerome Hauer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University in 1975 and a master’s in emergency medical services from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health (now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) in Baltimore. As a graduate student there, he developed a technique for returning blood to patients after cardiac and trauma surgery.

He was a captain in the Army Reserve Medical Services Corps and received a doctorate from Cranfield University’s Defence Academy in Britain.

He was a deputy director of New York City’s Emergency Medical Services from 1984 to 1986; managed an emergency response program for IBM; directed Indiana’s Emergency Management Agency from 1989 to 1995; and, from 2001 to 2002, was senior adviser to the secretary for national security of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he dealt with the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks.

As the first acting assistant secretary in the department’s Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness from 2002 to 2004, Mr. Hauer was charged with coordinating the country’s readiness for medical and public health emergencies — including acts of biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism — and its responses to them.

From 2011 to 2014, he was commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

He was also a senior adviser at Teneo and chief executive of the Hauer Group, both consulting firms. He worked alongside Mr. Bratton at Teneo.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Michael, from his marriage to Glenda Reed, which ended in divorce; and a sister, Deborah Hauer Schwartz.

Mr. Hauer made it a point not to inure himself to disasters. At the sites of some catastrophes, he would sift through piles of rubble for a brick or other remnant, then bring it back to his office as a solemn reminder that his mission was to prepare for the worst in a world of what-ifs.

Sam Roberts, an obituaries reporter, was previously The Times’s urban affairs correspondent and is the host of “The New York Times Close Up,” a weekly news and interview program on CUNY-TV. More about Sam Roberts