The flow of communications is crucial when it comes to natural disasters or emergency incidents when people’s lives are at stake. The methods of communications are also critical in that they have to be working without interruption so that various agencies can communicate with each other and so crucial information can get to the public.
Regarding the bombing that took place during the Boston Marathon in 2013, the Boston Police Commissioner, in his testimony before Senate Homeland Security, stated that “There is a gap with information sharing at a higher level while there are still opportunities to intervene in the planning of these terrorist events” (Boston police commissioner, 2014, par. 2).
This testimony also revealed that intra agency communications, especially via cell phones, were a problem during and after the bombing and “useless” according to the Commissioner’s testimony (Boston police commissioner, 2014, par. 13). This mishap did result in the FBI improving its information-sharing policies because there were indications that the agency knew the bombers may be a threat in advance.
The City of Boston had been proactive in emergency and disaster response due to years it invested in developing disaster plans and building relationships with medical personnel, responders and law enforcement (Boston police commissioner, 2014). After the 2014 bombing, Boston was cited as an exemplary example for other cities to follow.
The state of Massachusetts had an advanced planning and exercise protocol in place in preparation for an emergency during a large public gathering. The quick and effective action taken by first responders after the bombing demonstrated the high level of preparedness (Boston Marathon bombings, n.d.). One of the key factors in the quick and coordinated response was that local, federal and non-government agencies, including those from the private sector, all knew their roles in the case of a public emergency, such as the bombing. All of the agencies involved had already been through a series of practice drills.
I would suggest that the best way to multi-agency communication can be improved is to look at cities such as Boston that have developed comprehensive emergency plans for all types of situations. The 9/11 attacks is a good example of how to better coordinate agencies, although the massive scale of the disaster would make efforts difficult in any city. However, much can be learned from past events and by following the example of Massachusetts, and having plans in place and practice drills for individual agencies and ones in which agencies communicate back and forth, is a step in the right direction. It is also key that the plans be reviewed and updated on a regular basis so that new kinds of threats, such as the recent Las Vegas shooting, can be anticipated and prepared for.
Regarding the importance of emergency communication, having something similar to the IED (improvised explosive devices) Annex developed by several New England states, which served as a model for deploying resources in the case of multiple attacks in different locations, is an effective model to follow (Boston Marathon bombings, n.d., par. 8).
Coordinated efforts between law enforcement, local hospitals, emergency responders, fire fighters, city hall, city council, public and private sectors would enhance quicker response time and ensure help gets to those who most need it in the case of an emergency. The recent Las Vegas shootings demonstrated that some scenarios could never be anticipated. Even though this incident is still under investigation, the shooter was able to transport a multitude of weapons and ammunition into the hotel undetected. The lessons learned from 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings led to enhanced response protocol just as the Las Vegas shooting may result in a policy change at hotels. In other words, much is learned from these kinds of horrible events that may prevent another one like them.