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Joseph W. Pfeifer, Guest Speaker



Joseph Pfeifer is the Chief of Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness for the FDNY. He has commanded some of the largest fires and emergencies in the department’s history and was the first Chief at the World Trade Center attack on the morning of September 11, 2001. He directs the FDNY’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness, which he founded after 9/11. Since then, he has assessed the Department’s 9/11 response, identified new budget and policy priorities, helped overhaul management practices, created partner ships to supplement the Department’s existing competencies with new expertise, shaped new technologies for emergency response and developed the FDNY’s first Strategic Plan, Terrorism Preparedness Strategy, and Marine Operations Strategy. He produces weekly analyses of threats and crisis response throughout the world and is also a Citywide Command Chief, responsible for commanding major incidents.

Pfeifer is a program affiliate and visiting fellow of the Program on Crisis Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and has presented in several of the program’s flagship Executive Education programs, including Leadership in Crises and China Crisis Management. He is also Senior Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and has spoken about crisis leadership and disaster management at Harvard University, Columbia University, Wharton, Kellogg School of Management, the United States Military Academy, the FBI, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, a Masters in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School and a Masters in Theology from Immaculate Conception. He writes frequently and is published in various books and journals.

PCL Working Paper: Pfeifer, Joseph “Crisis Leadership: Adapting to Extreme Events.” 2012

Selected Publication Citations:

  • Pfeifer, J. “Adapting to Novelty: The need for Innovation and Leadership.” WNYF, 1st /2012.
  • Pfeifer, J. “Network Command: The High - Tech Future of Incident Management”, WNYF, 1st /2009.
  • Pfeifer, J. “The Decisive Moment: Decision – The Science of decision making under stress” in Leadership in Dangerous Situations. ed. by Sweeney, P. Matthews, M. and Lester , P. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011.
  • Pfeifer, J. “The Foreword” in Extremist Leadership by Kolditz, T. 2008.
  • Pfeifer, J. “Understanding How Organizational Bias Influenced First Responders” in Psychology of Terrorism, ed. Bongar, Zimbardo, etc al. NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Sawyer, R. & Pfeifer, J. “Strategic Planning for First Responders,” Homeland Security and Terrorism , ed. Sawyer and Howard. New York: McGraw - Hill, 2006.




Leadership in Crises

Whether it's a natural disaster, an industrial accident, or a terrorist attack, or other catastrophe, a crisis usually hits with no warning.  Click for Details.


General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar

The General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar is designed by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Crisis Leadership specifically for the National Guard and the United States Coast Guard.  Click for Details.



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