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Learning from Boston: One year after the marathon bombings

As we approach the first anniversary. of the Boston Marathon bombing, it’s hard not to think of the events that took place, and the lives that were lost or impacted. This number, as high and alarming as it was, could have been much larger if it were not for the emergency planning that the city had in place..

At the time of the attacks, I was already at work, in Everbridge’s Waltham, MA offices. It was hard not to feel helpless when we first heard the news that bombs had gone off. I listened as one of my coworkers, whose desk was next to mine, frantically tried to call his sister-in-law, who was running in the marathon. Like many others, he found the lack of cell bandwidth. made it impossible to get through.

Fortunately, Boston and various other local agencies and organizations were proactive in their emergency response. Even though communication was limited, advance planning enabled coordinating agencies, first responders, and local employers to take advantage of other available methods (like SMS) to reach staff, stakeholders, and just about anyone they needed to communicate with immediately. For businesses (including hospitals and other first responder organizations) this helped them confirm who was not only safe and secure, but who was available to work.

As difficult as it is to imagine April 15th, 2013 being any worse, it easily could have been. That is why it is important for organizations to be proactive and plan ahead. Having a mass notification system allowed Boston residents and workers to communicate even when traditional methods were out of consideration. The process proved to be a success and a life saver. As we look back, we should also look forward – we can learn from the best practices of Boston to guide our own plans for an emergency.

Here are a several more critical communications best practices that we can take away from this tragic event. Although, unfortunately, acts of violence are increasing in frequency, proactive planning, preparation and swift response can minimize loss and ensure safety.

And, as always, let us know your thoughts. Were you in Boston last year? Do you have stories to share about how you were able to effectively—or not—communicate during the crisis? We would love to hear from you.

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