America is at its best when it faces adversity with courage, confidence, and determination. That recipe of “what makes us who we are” holds for hurricanes, disasters, and tragedies like the one that occurred during yesterday’s Boston Marathon.
A security professional knows what to do first: Take care of the injured, protect the responders and bystanders who are racing to the scene to help (who can often be the target of follow-on attacks), and preserve the evidence available at the scene. Those efforts appear well underway. We should be proud of the responders and the citizens of Boston.
Our assessments and speculation on what to do next should not outpace what we know. Even very authoritative-sounding reports issued from the scene or shared by on-scene reporters or witnesses may turn out to be inaccurate. That has already proven the case in Boston with conflicting reports on the number of explosions, claims of suspects in custody, and statements about unexploded devices being recovered.
In cases such as this, officials often can garner a tremendous amount of evidence from the crime scene in the first 72 hours. In such investigations, you start with the evidence and that leads to suspects, not the other way around.
Law enforcement in other communities may want to take additional precautions. Pittsburgh, for example, has a citywide marathon coming up in a few weeks. That might be prudent. Any additional security after an event like this, however, should be based on professional assessments of risk and any intelligence that is available. America’s enemies can’t be everywhere.
Protecting large public events is the most difficult of public safety challenges. Further, these gatherings are most vulnerable to exactly the kind of incident that occurred in Boston. That said, the reasonable public safety precautions that can be taken to thwart them are well known. After the fact, it will have to be determined if these were properly taken.
Unfortunately, such measures—even if fully implemented—cannot perfectly safeguard such large crowds. The best security, if this is confirmed as a coordinated, predetermined act, is to stop the perpetrators before they undertake their attacks.
Bringing perpetrators to justice, preventing further attacks, and learning lessons from this incident on how to prevent or respond to future incidents will come in time. For now, we should all stand with Boston. We should all show the world that today we will get up unafraid, and America will step forward into the day.
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