The Boston Marathon Bombings
Lessons Learned for Saving Lives

Summary

Following the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon and a dramatic search for the suspects, the city’s emergency preparedness and response systems have been credited with saving lives. This Forum event, focused primarily on the immediate aftermath of the bombings, revealed the sometimes surprising underpinnings of a successful emergency preparedness system and shared hard-won lessons applied and learned.

The Forum is pleased to share that Mary Clark, Director of the Emergency Preparedness Bureau, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and HSPH alumna, and Boston responders in the audience also made remarks.

Presented in Collaboration with WBUR.

Background Articles

Image Credit: © Reuters/Scott Eisen

  • Blanca Parker

    If possible, could you please speak to the involvement, if any, of local public health departments, in planning and response?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    E-MAIL FROM ONLINE VIEWER

    Hello:
    Don’t you think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?
    Shouldn’t the focus be on stopping these terrorists?
    Shouldn’t we devise new 0-tolerance laws for those who chose to commit acts of terrorism?
    It seems from what the news people are saying that these terrorist brothers could have been stopped.
    Did the elder really go to Russia for six months and did the Russian government really warn our agencies?
    It’s awful when anyone can make the USA look weak and stupid. He was so scary that no one would give any info on those murders he committed.
    Are we going to stand by and have sympathy for the younger because he was made to do bad things by his mean older brother?
    What is happening? Are Americans being threatened into giving up our freedom of speaking freely? Are there factions that are sending us into a scarier-than-McCarthy era?
    Sincerely,
    Dolly Trebilcock, MEd

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    E-MAIL FROM ONLINE VIEWER
    First off, thank you very much for hosting this forum. I wish I could have been there in person but have no childcare on Fridays.

    My husband’s business (about 150 employees), children’s school, and our home were all within 3 blocks of a bomb. Having just lived intimately connected to this event, I find myself very proud of Boston for the fiercely loyal, intelligent, and selfless actions of every last human involved with the response. However, as a resident of the area with three children under 5, I’ve struggled with the communication of risk to those living in possibly affected areas. This is the second emergency in as many years that has left me looking for answers and heading to the internet for information. After the transformer fire last year when acrid black smoke was billowing into our windows, I was very upset by the misinformation out there and not sure what I should or could be doing to protect my family. We are signed up for emergency alerts from the city and only received one on Friday as a call to shelter in place. I encourage Mr Hooley and EMS to be the first to provide information, even just status updates that an event has occurred and an assessment of what is happening to respond. As a neighbor asked me Monday afternoon, “They would be going through the streets with bullhorns like with the snow emergency if we needed to know something, right?” Why wasn’t the city’s emergency alert system put into place and what capability do you have to communicate information to residents of affected areas?
    Also, what capability does the city of Boston have for detecting whether bioweapons have been included in an attack (i.e. air sensors similar to Biosense), how long does it take to determine the nature of an attack, and how could this information be conveyed to residents?
    Thank you again for this forum and to the efforts by all of those here today,

    Jessica Hartman Jacobs, ScD

  • Freddy Cheng

    Can you please comment if steps are being made to secure the safety of first responders, specifically are any protocols in place to clear/scan/secure the blast zone of possible delayed secondary IEDs… in the same location.

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM FORUM EMAIL ACCOUNT

    My question: What if anything will you do differently in preparation and planning for your next mega-event as it pertains to public safety in general? Thank you
    Darryl E. Jones, Chief
    Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM FORUM EMAIL ACCOUNT
    Did you see any early or late primary blast injury of the lungs or bowel that changed ED, ICU, or surgical management?

    John M Wightman, MD, MA, FACEP
    Professor and Education Director

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM FORUM EMAIL ACCOUNT
    did your MCI plan (triage tags, treatment sector etc.) go into play early by first responders or did it take shape later in the incident. ( how long?)

    C A Moore
    senior ems supervisor Houston Fire Dept

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM FORUM EMAIL ACCOUNT
    Did the radios and other devices communicate WELL between first (paid) responders? Anne Keith, RN NP, DrPH, Maine

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM FORUM EMAIL ACCOUNT
    Hello:
    Don’t you think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?
    Shouldn’t the focus be on stopping these terrorists?
    Shouldn’t we devise new 0-tolerance laws for those who chose to commit acts of terrorism?
    It seems from what the news people are saying that these terrorist brothers could have been stopped.
    Did the elder really go to Russia for six months and did the Russian government really warn our agencies?
    It’s awful when anyone can make the USA look weak and stupid. He was so scary that no one would give any info on those murders he committed.
    Are we going to stand by and have sympathy for the younger because he was made to do bad things by his mean older brother?
    What is happening? Are Americans being threatened into giving up our freedom of speaking freely? Are there factions that are sending us into a scarier-than-McCarthy era?
    Sincerely,
    Dolly Trebilcock, MEd

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Does Boston EMS or Fire carry commercial tourniquets?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    All hospitals received about the same number of patients with pretty much the same proportion of all acuity and very quickly. How was this coordinated? What would the death toll likely have been if there had not been such a superb response?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Find it serendipitous that the hospitals had *any* extra capacity. ED’s are so frequently boarding admitted patients these days! Was it just lucky they had beds upstairs or what is Boston doing right?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Did first responders and ERs perform radiological monitoring during pt triage and care?Monitoring to rule out a potential radiological dispersion device.

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Please ask a Boston EMS person to describe CMED. Specifically its role in patient distribution and information sharing with hospitals. It is a national model and should be replicated nation wide!

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    I have a few questions regarding the pediatric response to the event. How many kids were involved? Was there a plan in place for dealing with pediatric victims? Were they all taken to Boston Children’s?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Treating juveniles brings up several interesting questions about ‘chain of custody’. Were there any children treated that didn’t have parents/guardians? If so, did child services need to get involved?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Was the City of Bostons municipal EOC open and staffed for the marathon or was it only activated post the event?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    How did Boston Police secure the perimeter and protect the medical response? I saw a story of a Kansas physician who ‘talked his way past two police officers’ to get into the medical aid tent to help? Could have been carrying a secondary device. Sounds like there was awareness of secondary devices near the blast site, but was there concerns for a secondary attack on the tents?

  • The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health

    QUESTION FROM LIVE CHAT
    Does the City of Boston, or the State of Massachusetts have/use Medical Ambulance Buses for mass transport of injured?