Richard J. Sheirer, the former head of the city’s Office of Emergency Management who led the agency during the Sept. 11 attacks, died on Thursday morning while driving to work in Manhattan, the city said.
Mr. Sheirer, 65, rose from fire dispatcher to senior positions in the city’s Police and Fire Departments before Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani named him, in 2000, to the top job in the Office of Emergency Management, where he served until 2002. His latest job was as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners, Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm.
Thomas Von Essen, the former fire commissioner, said that Mr. Sheirer, who lived on Staten Island, had chest pains while driving to his job and pulled over at West 14th Street and Tenth Avenue, where he dialed 911 for help. An ambulance crew arrived at about 9:10 a.m., officials said, and took Mr. Sheirer to Beth Israel Medical Center, where he died.
Mr. Giuliani went there to be at his side, Mr. Von Essen said. Mr. Sheirer is survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons Matthew, Joseph, Christopher, Andrew and Paul. His son Andrew is a city firefighter assigned to Ladder 148 in Brooklyn, fire officials said.
“Richard Sheirer was a hero,” Mr. Giuliani said in a statement. “He was the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management during the worst attack in the history of our city. He was there from the earliest moments of the attack. He guided the most extensive relief and recovery effort ever. It was done with great skill and sensitivity.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, under whom Mr. Sheirer also served, said in a statement that Mr. Sheirer “defined the notion of service, dedicating more than 30 years of his life to our city and to improving and safeguarding the lives of others.”
After the terrorist attacks, the city’s emergency response system was criticized by consultants and analysts who said that basic coordination between the Fire and Police Departments and chain-of-command information were absent, leading to loss of lives.
The attacks destroyed the Office of Emergency Management’s command center in 7 World Trade Center. But even before that bunker fell, the agency had not conducted any joint exercises for firefighters, police officers and others in the 18 months before the attack.
Mr. Sheirer said in a 2002 interview that at the time of the attacks he had been working to fix an agency beset by personality clashes.