The terrible attacks at the end of the Boston Marathon were far less deadly than they could have been because people were prepared -- not only by having lots of police and medical personnel and vehicles as they routinely do for the event, but also by practicing how to handle emergency situations like mass casualties. The police and fire people did it; the hospital ER people did it; and the results are enormously gratifying.
Mark Ambinder gives more details:
A universal command center had been set up quickly; one dispatcher was in charge; one chief was in charge; orders were funneled up and down the chain. Boston uses relatively few frequencies for its special operations, and though this means that they could easily get clogged, it also makes it easier to communicate with everybody.We have a Department of Homeland Security and local emergency preparedness offices because we have learned that paper plans on a shelf aren't enough. First responders and the follow-on units all need to practice what they will have to do in a crisis so that in the crisis they will act without doubt or hesitation. In Boston this week they rose to the challenge.
Within a half hour, on the detective channel, the "Victors" — the detectives — were gathering at a point. On the main channel, a senior officer was handling the requests for EOD canines, a half dozen of which had just arrived from nearby jurisdictions.
It did seem as if the department had rehearsed for something like this, and indeed, I learned later that they had. The FBI and various Boston agencies have practiced responding to major mass casualty events.