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Faculty and researchers from Harvard Kennedy School's Program on Crisis Leadership and Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, along with faculty representing Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, have undertaken a research initiative examining the response to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
One year after two homemade bombs exploded along the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three, injuring dozens, and traumatizing an entire city, jurisdictions both here and abroad remain on high alert to the possibility of similar unexpected, complex, and potentially deadly events in their own backyard. A new White Paper co-authored by four scholars of emergency management and criminal justice at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Harvard Law School (HLS), and Harvard Business School (HBS) draws upon the marathon bombing events to provide responders with concrete and actionable steps to help improve their own emergency management planning efforts now and in the years to come.
This new White Paper dissects the myriad events that occurred in and around the City between April 15-19, 2013; it's authors – Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard (HKS/HBS); Christine M. Cole (HKS); Arnold M. Howitt (HKS); and Philip B. Heymann (HLS) – analyze in detail the 100 hours "of intense drama that riveted the attention of the nation" between the moment the first bomb exploded near the marathon finish line until the arrest of the lone surviving suspect more than four days later – identifying those critical moments when planning, preparation, and coordination paid off – as well as those occasions when performance left room for improvement...
The team's final report, Why Was Boston Strong? Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing, was publicly released on April 3, 2014. The report emphasizes 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 recommend to:
Building on a foundation of expertise in the fields of emergency management, criminal justice, public management and leadership, and organizational behavior and design, the research team collected data through a series of interviews with command-level officials involved in the response to the Marathon bombings. Interviewees represented a range of agencies and organizations, jurisdictions, and levels of government. The interviews were recorded but were conducted on a not-for-attribution basis in order to facilitate as open a dialogue as possible.
After reviewing and synthesizing the data collected through these interviews – as well as information available through public sources – the researchers authored a draft white paper on lessons learned from the response to the bombings. This draft was shared with interviewees, who provided feedback at a meeting held at Harvard Kennedy School in February 2014.
Organized by a team of Harvard University faculty and researchers, the Why Was Boston Strong Conference explored lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. Featuring a series of panel presentations and group discussions, this invitation-only, off-the-record gathering provided participants with a unique opportunity to candidly discuss the challenges of planning and preparing for large-scale, high-profile events.
Approximately 100 people convened at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) on March 13 and 14,, 2014. This gathering featured a series of panel presentations and candid group discussions on issues related to preparing for and responding to preplanned, fixed events like the Marathon and sudden, no notice incidents like those that transpired in Watertown. An updated draft of the team's white paper served as the focal point of the proceedings; and group discussion served as an invaluable mechanism for refining the paper's content and shaping the recommendations included in the final report.
The Why Was Boston Strong? initiative is led by:
The Research Team is deeply grateful for the benefits of the expertise and assistance of the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) in the development of our research and in the organization of the conference based on this work.
The Team also gratefully acknowledges support for this initiative from the International Centre for Sport Security, from Harvard University's Provost Office, from the Harvard Kennedy School's Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and Program on Crisis Leadership; as well as from Harvard Law School and from Harvard Business School.
Participants included local, state, & federal officials involved in the week-long response to the bombings; senior practitioners representing emergency management, public safety, and law enforcement; organizers of major fixed events (e.g., sporting contests, political conventions); and scholars of emergency management, criminal justice, and public management
Photo: Tony Rinaldo
Photo: Tony Rinaldo