With little more than a week before the starting gun commences the running of the 2015 Boston Marathon, Boston’s Marathon Bombing Report evaluates the city’s emergency response for the tragedy. The report that analyzed how Boston handled the bombing event and the following manhunt for the perpetrators touted an effective response, and indicated the city’s overall preparedness.
The focal point of the summary was the fact that all victims that were transferred to Boston-area hospitals for treatment survived. Likewise, after an intense manhunt that was conducted over a nearly five-day period of time, both suspects were identified and located. Both were either neutralized or taken into custody. The report concluded that coordination between federal, state and local authorities in the Boston area under the circumstances was extremely effective.
Because the authorities were already cooperating for the Marathon, transition to crisis intervention from general management was enhanced. The Unified Command (UC) structure morphed quickly into collaborative decision-making in the face of monumental circumstances. The report details the joint facilitation of mayoral efforts with that of the state governor and his resources. Down to even press conferences and media relations, resources were streamlined to enhance response.
The analysis showed that for the most part, police coordinated well with emergency medical resources to get the wounded to appropriate medical care facilities. Triage units processed victims according to severity of injury and created a hierarchy of transport that served to get critically wounded to critical care facilities successfully. Mental health resources were mobilized quickly for survivors and anyone who felt effected by the tragedy. The Marathon Bombing Evaluation’s analysis of Boston’s emergency response was positive overall.
One area of deficiency according to the report was the staffing patterns of law enforcement during the massive manhunt for the alleged perpetrators. Because of the scope of the effort, there was insufficient relief for already overworked officers. The report concluded that the combination of stress with fatigue led to potentially dangerous errors of judgment and execution.
A specific manifestation of this fatigue and stress combination was seen in the shootout that occurred once the Tsarnaev brothers were located and cornered in Watertown. The report concluded that while the initial responders practiced appropriate firearms discipline, reactions deteriorated as the second wave of officers arrived. In several situations, police on opposite sides of the street were firing shots creating the risk of cross-fire and potential friendly-fire injury. Multiple officers self-deployed without official direction and therefore were not privy to instruction or information. The evaluation concluded that supervisory coordination was somewhat ineffective because of communication logistics.
The decision by UC to require residents to “Shelter In Place” (stay in their homes) was reportedly well-implemented and contributed to limited collateral damage during the apprehension of the suspects. Lack of civilian traffic and public transit degraded the ability of suspects to abscond from the vicinity. Public safety was paramount in this situation and it was concluded that protective actions were well-executed. This was another example of well-coordinated communication on behalf of authorities within the community-at-large.
A heinous event of this magnitude places a huge burden on the resources and resolve of a municipality. The Marathon Bombing Report concluded in its evaluation that Boston’s official response was exemplary, and worthy of due praise.
By Chris Marion
Photo by Paul-W – Flickr License