Why Was Boston Strong? Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing

April 3, 2014
Herman B. "Dutch Leonard (Harvard Kennedy School/Harvard Business School), Christine M. Cole (Harvard Kennedy School), Arnold M. Howitt (Harvard Kennedy School), and Philip B. Heyman (Harvard Law School)

Why Was Boston Strong? Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombinghighlights 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.