While the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing stunned the nation and reminded citizens and policymakers alike of the devastation a terrorist attack can cause, it was also a success story from an emergency-response perspective. There were many factors that contributed to that success, including that EMS personnel were already deployed for the race and that bystanders acted quickly to save lives instead of running to save their own. But chief among the reasons for the successful response was that Boston had prepared for just such an event.
“Years before the incident, Boston’s EMS, fire, and police personnel mapped out how they would handle a terrorist bombing,” Dr. Arthur Kellermann told a Senate committee looking at lessons from the Boston bombing. “Every hospital that received casualties had a well-crafted disaster plan that had been exercised prior to the event,” said Kellermann, an emergency physician and policy analyst with the RAND Corporation.
Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has invested billions of dollars in programs that strengthen the preparedness of state and local responders. The response capabilities of all parties involved after the Boston Marathon bombing shows that these programs have been making a measurable difference, Kellermann said. For example, The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), established by the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, has helped communities handle disasters from earthquakes to bombings.
Other cities and states have also used such funds to good effect. Security Management spoke with Bob Spieldenner, the director of public affairs at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, about how that state has applied its HSEEP money. Virginia has had its share of crises to respond to, notes Spieldenner. They include the Virginia Tech shooting and the 9-11 attack on the Pentagon, as well as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Those incidents have brought home the message that “being prepared for whatever type of circumstance comes up is key,” he says.