Order in the midst of chaos

As we watch an end to the mayhem in Boston and the surrounding suburbs that began with the bombings at the Boston Marathon, many may wonder how all of this worked? One short acronym, NIMS, National Incident Management System is the easy answer. For years, public safety officials from the local level all the way to the federal level have been receiving uniformed training that was designed for a situation just like the one that unfolded in Boston. The FBI was the lead agency, due to the fact that this was considered terrorism. The FBI could not do it all. Numerous other agencies were required to bring this incident to a successful conclusion. It may have looked like chaos, but today was an excellent example of how well the system can work.

When I attended the Advanced Public Information Officer course at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., we were told that every locality is one incident away from national media being on your doorstep. We were taught about the Joint Information System (JIS) and the Joint Information Center (JIC). The Joint Information Center is tied directly to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The purpose of the JIC is to work with the EOC to properly disseminate the information that goes to the public, when an event unfolds that requires multiple jurisdictions, and multiple departments within a particular locality. At present, Chesterfield County does not have a JIC. Information, during events, which cause the EOC to be activated, is disseminated directly from the county’s EOC through the Department of Public Affairs.

I believe that we have learned many things from past events. Our ability to communicate has become vitally important. Portable and mobile radios have now been upgraded to allow communication on a multi-jurisdictional level. Before I left the job, we had begun to train with surrounding departments, allowing multi-jurisdictional responses to go much smoother.
As I listened to the Governor of Massachusetts, he used a powerful word to explain how this went so well, collaboration. The lead FBI agent acknowledged their partners in this event. An incident can never be about territorialism, but whatever it takes to bring an incident to a successful end.  I am reminded of the explosion in the small town of West Texas. This event has gone to the national level, simply because of the magnitude and complexity of what has occurred. The lesson for every locality is to be prepared.

I want to end this article by thanking every police officer for the courage and bravery that they display every day. We have seen many officers make the ultimate sacrifice in their work to keep us safe. I know many police officers in Chesterfield personally, and am thankful for each and every one, known or not. In many ways, a police officer’s job is a thankless one, but I am eternally grateful for all that they do. The Boston police commissioner stated that the officers acted courageously, bravely and heroically. God bless our police officers.        

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