Boston bombings show crisis leadership in action

18 Apr

'Clear images of two suspects to be released'

The recent Boston bombings were horrible and devastating to watch.  And my condolences and prayers go out to the families of the 3 persons killed, and all those injured and hurt in anyway.  As a Manager and Public Relations professional, I also followed the response of the State, first responders and various officials to this crisis and how they reacted to the tragedy, contained it and dealt with it.  After the first few moments of disbelief, the response of the various first responders was swift, intentional and structured.  While being horrified at what I was witnessing on my television, I was also happy to see what I suspected was a state that had planned for a terrible situation as this one……from the immediate reactions of the police, medical personnel and others at the marathon, to the emergency staff at the hospitals.  This tragic occurrence however provides us with an opportunity to witness crisis leadership in action and to be able to learn from it, so that if (God forbid) there is another or similar crisis, the leaders and other resources involved can avoid the mistakes made, apply the tactics that worked and grow from the lessons learned.

Eric McNulty, Leonard Marcus, and Barry Dorn from the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at the Harvard University discuss the preparation the city of Boston did in their blog ‘When We’re Hungriest for Leadership”.  This preparation used several methods including a case study of a fictional terrorist bombing in a subway and past marathons and the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration to develop, exercise, and test their preparedness plans.  They also participated in an exchange programme which brought together officials from London, Madrid, Islamabad, and Israel to share their experience with terrorist bombing .  The authors note “Fortunately here, it seems that careful preparation helped civic leaders improvise a swift and effective response to the unthinkable. The city absorbed these lessons and modified its plans accordingly.”

The authors go on to note “Every crisis is potentially two crises: the original event and the response to the incident. When leadership remains calm and composed, they can help avoid turning the reaction to the crisis into a secondary disaster. In this case, the response was sure and swift. In Boston, effective preparation and in-the-moment leadership kept a terrible tragedy from descending into chaos that could well have resulted in more injuries, greater loss of life, and the possible destruction of evidence. Medical professionals, police, and race volunteers provided immediate aid. The professionals called upon long-rehearsed responses and were able nimbly (sic) organize bystanders and volunteers. The area was cleared quickly and efficiently.”

The key to crisis management is preparation.  It is vital to effective crisis management that a crisis is identified before it happens, and when it does, that it does not get out of control.  When last did you review your crisis manual?  Why not do so today?

You may read Eric McNulty, Leonard Marcus, and Barry Dorn’s article ‘When We’re Hungriest for Leadership” at


Francisca Jordan is an accomplished communications strategist and advisor with over (24) years experience in Corporate Communications, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.  Ms Jordan has assisted several large and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in both the public and private sector by providing winning strategies that transform business, drive sales, engage customers, employees, and other stakeholders and increase brand value. 


3 Responses to “Boston bombings show crisis leadership in action”

  1. Lucille Ossai April 19, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    I agree.

    In fact, a crisis-management system is similar to the “Crisis-Mode Plan”, which is one of the 6 mandatory components I have drawn up that constitutes an effective Communications Strategy:

    ( ).

    This becomes essential in a crisis such as the Boston bombings.

    Coincidentally, I am working on a post about the tragedy and would soon make it available on my blog.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Red Engine Online eMarketing Solutions April 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

      Thanks Lucille. I look forward to reading your post.

      • Lucille Ossai April 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

        Thank you.

        As mentioned earlier, I have been working on an article on the Boston bombings. It focuses on the first speech President Obama gave a few hours after the bombings.

        It is now available on my blog:

        Feel free to take a look.

        Lucille Ossai

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