April 3, 2014
Program on Crisis Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School

This report, through analysis of selected aspects of the Marathon events, seeks lessons that can help response organizations in Boston and other locales improve preparation both for emergencies that may occur at “fixed” events like the Marathon and for “no not ice” events like those that began with the murder of Officer Collier at MIT and concluded the next day with the apprehension of the alleged perpetrators in Watertown. The report is primarily based on a series of intensive interviews conducted in the summer and fall of 2013 with senior leaders of major law enforcement, emergency management, and emergency medical organizations who candidly shared their experiences in and insights about these events.

The report highlights a number of factors that contributed to a largely successful response and emphasizes what, exactly, made Boston Strong and resilient in the face of tragedy. It also provides a set of recommendations for jurisdictions to consider going forward. Among other findings, the authors urge reponders:

  • To quickly establish a cross-agency, senior strategic and policy-making level of engagement and secure command post -- with dedicated space for strategic, tactical and logistical teams -- that looks to both the big picture and a longer timeframe.   
  • To provide responders and political leaders with more training and experience in the doctrine of incident command in complex circumstances through exercises and utilization of regular “fixed events” to develop skills.
  • To develop a more effective process to manage the inevitable self-deployment of responders who in response to crisis arrive as independent individuals rather than in organized units.
  • To critically review current training and practice on control of weapons fire, which may call for new paradigms.
  • To design and routinely establish a staffing schedule for all levels of personnel ensuring rotation and rest that are essential to sustained performance when critical events last for days.
  • To consider a legislative change to the HIPAA regulations regarding release of information to family members about the health status of patients critically injured in an attack, in order to provide them the best care possible and to cater to their wide range of needs.