Strengthening Responses, Rather than Prevention, Seen as the Key to Combating Terrorism

Having the resources and training to adequately respond to bombings and incidents of mass violence are more effective than trying to prevent every act of terrorism from happening, says public safety authority.

In the aftermath of this week's bombings in Boston, Matt Bevilacqua speaks with Thomas Wieczorek, director of the Center for Public Safety Management at the D.C.-based International City/County Management Association, about how best to respond to the threats posed by improvised explosive devices.

"For Wieczorek, the best course of action involves preparing for when incidents like bombings actually happen, rather than pretend as if authorities can stop every single bomb from going off," says Bevilacqua.

“'Unless we are going to vastly regulate movements,' Wieczorek said, noting that police can’t search every person coming into an well-trafficked urban area, 'it’s really difficult to prevent something like [a bombing] from happening.'”

"Instead, he stressed to look at what went right in Boston: The city clearly had emergency plans in place and managed to carry them out swiftly and efficiently. Authorities rerouted thousands of runners away from the blast zone within minutes of the two explosions. Medical staff was on hand and ambulances were ready. Listening to the radio, Wieczorek noticed the clear communication between responders, who were able to dispatch resources and appropriately triage cases on the scene. It was everything you’d expect from a good emergency response. Three lives were lost, but the body count could have been far higher."

“How can you plan for the unexpected to the best extent possible,” Wieczorek said, “and then exercise it?”

Full Story: When Cities Must Handle a Crisis

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