I am always hesitant to immediately write about lessons to be learned from a tragedy such as what occurred during the recent Boston Marathon for fear that it might come across as an ambulance chasing kind of attempt to garner attention or attract more business. But, on the other hand, it is when the news is news and people are focused on the incident and the meaning behind it, that the lessons can most readily be learned.
First of all, let me make it clear that my first thoughts are always with the victims of such a tragedy. I cannot imagine the horror and pain suffered by those who were so horrendously impacted by this heinous act of cowardice. To be enjoying what should be a moment of pride and celebration for just crossing or nearing the finish line with your loved ones waiting to share the accomplishment with you and to have it all interrupted in an instant of violence is simply devastating. Even though I work in emergency preparedness and crisis management, I cannot help but shed tears every time I watch these events unfold.
There will be many so-called “lessons learned” that come from this incident. Some of them valid; some of them, simply, the wrong conclusions. The news media is and will continue to step all over each other trying to get the better story and trying to out-analyze the other channels in an attempt to gain greater market-share. There is still much to assess and much to learn. Most of the real, valid conclusions are still weeks away – when, unfortunately, some other news story will steal the headlines and those of us that were not directly impacted will have moved on with our lives.
At this point in time, I can merely speculate on what will be discovered, but I do have some of my own opinions. I think that this event shows us that the U.S., that for such a long time, has been somewhat void of the risks and threats of terrorism when compared to many of our international friends, must now acknowledge that we are susceptible to these types of risks. And, in my opinion, I think we will learn that this type of terrorism does not require a sophisticated, organized and well-financed group with a political agenda to carry out such an incident with relatively large impact (considering the numbers of people injured). No, I think we will learn that any idiot with access to the internet and with evil in their heart can pull off this type of terror. What this means is – everyone, everywhere is fair target for such a tragedy.
There are already many people, and there will be more, second-guessing the security at this event and calling for more stringent security for future, similar events. I, personally, don’t think that is the answer. There is always more we can do to try to prevent these occurrences, but, I think this incident shows us that there is always an opening for terrorism. Where ever you have mass gatherings, there is an opportunity for someone(s) to do damage. Yes, we need to do everything we can to prevent these tragedies but there is a point where prevention starts to hinder our freedoms. The other side of the equation is to be prepared.
I have already heard many people suggest that we need to keep on living, and I agree. But, we can keep on living with a higher level of preparedness. I think the people of Boston responded pretty well to the tragedy. The level of preparedness they had for foreseen medical issues resulting from running a marathon were leveraged to help respond to this unforeseen incident. The people they had in place managing the event were the right people for responding to this tragedy and, I think, they responded admirably.
There are other things we can do as individuals to be better prepared for incidents such as this. Having pre-established meeting areas – including virtual meeting places via common people to call – is just one example. There are others that I am sure you have already read about in other articles. I am just going to go way outside my area of expertise and way outside the considerations of business continuity and suggest that one way we can help prepare ourselves for these types of tragedies is to remember to say our “I love you”s before we are impacted by these types of events.
I am about to board a plane to the Continuity Insights Management Conference in San Diego. I am sure the Boston Marathon tragedy will be vastly discussed, formally and informally, by the many professionals that will be in attendance. I am sure to hear a wide variety of opinionated causes and corrections – some, I will learn from; some, I will shake my head at. What I am going to make sure I do, however, is to say my “I love you”s before getting on the plane. That is one lesson we should never forget.