Looking Back at Boston: Two Years After The Marathon Attack

May 14, 2015

Two years ago, on Monday April 15, 2013, two individuals detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the 117th annual Boston Marathon. 1 The 2013 Boston Marathon comprised nearly 30,000 participants and over half a million spectators, event staff, and emergency personnel.2 The attacks resulted in a total of three deaths and approximately 264 injures, including 16 amputations.3

On the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing, many cities heightened security at road races, outdoor athletic competitions, and other large public gatherings. The London Marathon took place just a week after Boston, with London's law enforcement deploying 40% more officers than usual. 4 In Cincinnati, undercover officers and bomb-sniffing dogs were deployed for their marathon on May 5, 2013. Cleveland's race on May 19, 2013 had a zero-tolerance policy for unaccompanied bags. Pittsburgh tightened their security by establishing zones near the start and finish lines where no spectators would be allowed in addition to street closures. A NYC bike tour prohibited riders from bringing bags larger than a fanny pack past the parking lot.5

Other sporting events addressed concerns about the potential for bombs hidden in bags. A month after the Boston bombing, the National Football League unanimously voted to implement a policy restricting the size and types of bags allowed at NFL games. Bags now must be clear or be smaller than 12" x 6" x 12". 6

listvia City of Boston

Two years later, the increased security at the Boston Marathon is no longer a noticeable change; it has become the norm. Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director, Kurt Schwartz, recommended that spectators and participants leave all bags at home or use see through bags only, but security officials still conducted bag checks for all spectators and marathon participants.7 In addition, cameras were trained on practically all street corners and every street was fenced off for miles, reducing the ability for spectators to wander around while the marathon took place.8 In an interview with the Associated Press, when discussing new security measures, Schwartz stated "Last year we built something completely new. We didn't get it 100 percent right, and we figured it out along the way...In some ways the plan is even deeper this year than it was last year."9

This year, the 119th Boston Marathon saw approximately one million spectators and had nearly 30,000 participants.10 While difficult for security to inspect every spectator, it was clear that the overall situational awareness was heightened and they were acutely conscious of unattended items and the bags that spectators carried.

The City of Boston has been proactive in testing its emergency preparedness capabilities, which paid off when terror struck the annual marathon, saving dozens of lives. It is important for Boston and other major cities to continually assess lessons learned from the attack, as well as the 'what if's' in order to mitigate damage and lives lost in future events.

1. FEMA. Boston Marathon Bombings: The Positive Effects of Planning and Preparation on Response. Rep. Lessons Learned Information Sharing, 2 Aug. 2013. Web.

2. Ibid.

3. Hoffer, Steven. "Boston Marathon Bombing Injury Total Climbs To 264, Officials Say." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost, 23 Apr. 2013. Web.

4. Rochman, Bonnie. Post-Boston Marathon, How Races are Heightening Security. Time Sports. May 2013. Web.

5. Ibid.

6. Rosenthal, Gregg. NFL's new bag policy to improve public safety at games. National Football League. June 2013. Web.

7. Martin, Rachel. "Security Tightens For Second Boston Marathon Since The Bombing". NPR. 19 April 2015. Web.

8. Ibid.

9. Golen, Jimmy. "Boston Marathon 2015: Tight security, patriotic fervor make it more than just a race". Associated Press. 18 April 2015. Web.

10. Ibid.