General, Industry

BostonStrong: Communicating in the Face of Tragedy

empty city

Empty City [Photo by James Fenter]

As I write this post my neighborhood is in “lock down” while an alphabet soup of law enforcement officials pursues the second Boston Marathon Bomber, Dzhokar Tsarnaev. While watching events unfold throughout the day, I have been amazed at the level of coordination among law enforcement organizations and the level of public communication on the progress of the investigation.  The Atlantic today reported on Boston as one of the Best Prepared U.S. Cities to handle a crisis. It shows.

According to James Baker, the president of security consultancy Cytel Group “the [Boston] leadership is outstanding. I have found that they are proactive and forward thinking – they invested a lot of time and energy in getting ready for something that they never thought would happen.” Authorities essentially shut down the city of Boston and several surrounding communities in an organized way today. It is truly astonishing. Friends are posting pictures of “the empty city” as the subway, trains and even taxi service has been shut down.

This crazy day within a tragic week got me thinking about the daunting communication challenge that has faced our fair city. Information needs to be shared quickly, accurately and appropriately. It needs to be tailored to coordinated law enforcement personnel at different levels, media outlets – including requests for responsible journalism, and to the public at large – including requests for cooperation. I found that Homeland Security had (not surprisingly) developed communications standards back in 2003 in the face of all sorts of crisis situations such as IED attacks, chemical attacks and even nuclear attacks. These can be found under “Communicating in a Crisis” on the Homeland Security website.

BostonstrongYet, there have been so many levels of communication that can’t be planned in a security guidebook; the statements of support from President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry – a Boston man himself, Governor Patrick, and Mayor Menino who was speaking from a wheelchair. Perhaps you would expect elected officials to be up to this sort of task but, what about the amazing tributes put together by the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins – and sports teams all over the country? In no time at all the term BostonStrong has circled the globe in a way that is sincere, touching and inspirational.

I hope that no city has to face what Boston has gone through this week but if the worst happens, I’m proud to say that Boston has given the world a template to learn from.

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P.S. My sincere thanks to the many friends from around the world who reached out to check on the welfare of me, my friends and my family. We are #BostonStrong around the world. Thank you all.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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