Former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis spoke at the Synnex Red, White and You conference in Dallas, TX, offering five crisis management lessons learned following the 2013 terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon.
- Preparation is the top priority. Only when plans are tested can problems be identified and fixed. “We trained for these things day in and day out … and the police have spent an enormous amount of time investing in preparation and training, testing the plans that we have and making sure that [they] work,” he said, stressing the importance of collaboration and who to work with in the event of an emergency.
- Know when to change your plans. Davis stressed the importance of being educated enough about a plan to know when to change it – illustrating his point with a deputy superintendent who began transporting injured people to hospitals in police wagons when the ambulances were full. It was against policy, but according to doctors, it made the difference between life and death.
- Build the relationships you need, before you need them. “You can’t start to build those relationships during a crisis,” he said, regarding the critical collaborations between department heads and various branches of government.
- Use social media to combat misinformation. Davis’s department jumped up to 304,000 followers on Twitter the afternoon of the bombing “because we were giving really good information, some of which the media was not.” Social media gave them the ability to communicate with the media and the public.
- Believe in the community. “It was the community that made it all work,” David said – such as the hotel staffers who volunteered their time to help the law enforcement officers who were using their hotel as a command post. The police, in turn, took up a collection for the hotel workers – who then donated that money to victims of the bombing.