Disaster Preparedness in the Shadow of Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings

The most important lesson learned in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing is that preparation does work. Boston prides itself on being ready for when they are needed. Every year, joint emergency testing and training events take place and involve area hospitals, first responders, and state and local officials. Also included are the people that make Boston “go,” from the mass transit authority to the nurses and doctors who volunteer their time each year working the finish line of the Marathon. It is this dedication and training that led to the death toll after the Boston Marathon bombings being a lot smaller than it could have been. Three lives lost and countless lives changed is bad, but it could have been a lot worse.

To assess the lessons learned from the Boston bombings, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the “Lessons Learned from the Boston Marathon Bombings: Preparing for and Responding to the Attack” on July 10, 2013, at 10 a.m.

According to the Committee, “The terrorist attack that occurred during the 117th Boston Marathon serves as a reminder that while the U.S. has made great progress in combating terrorism, terrorists at home and abroad still seek to carry out brutal attacks against Americans. While the first priority is to stop these before they occur, it is also important to ensure that when prevention fails, federal, state and local entities are well prepared to immediately respond to the attacks and mitigate their effects.”

Crucial Lessons Learned

Some media outlets have already voiced their opinions about lessons learned after the bombings, even saying that America is now better prepared for such disasters moving forward. Lessons were taken away that should help first responders, medical personnel, and everyday citizens. It is the hope that such incidents never happen, but being ready for them can allow America to deal with them when they do happen more effectively. The following are some of those lessons learned.


During the bombing it was almost impossible to make a cell phone call into or out of Boston. This was due to the heavy call volume, which in turn overloaded the local cell phone circuits. Many resorted to social media to learn what was happening and to connect with friends and family. And while not all of the information coming out of Boston on social media was correct, it did prove its worth as a communication method, especially in lieu of a downed cell phone system.

Shelter in Place/Telecommuting

Following the bombing, local Boston and federal authorities conducted a massive manhunt that resulted in the death of one of the bombers and capture of the other bomber. During this time, residents were instructed to shelter in place at home and avoid the roadways. For many businesses this presented a problem as they did not have the infrastructure in place for workers to telecommute. This provides one area of improvement going forward for continuity planners, as the issuing of laptops and VPN tokens would have allowed many employees to access their work network to complete their work.


For more information about lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombings, visit: http://www.hlswatch.com/2013/07/08/upcoming-senate-hearing-on-lessons-learned-from-the-boston-marathon-bombings/