FEMA says preparedness training paid off during Boston Marathon bombings

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's preparedness training in the last decade contributed positively to the preparedness level of first responders during the Boston Marathon bombings, a FEMA representative recently told a Senate committee.

Richard Serino, FEMA's deputy administrator, made the statement during his testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last week. The hearing was called "Lessons Learned from the Boston Marathon Bombings: Preparing for and Responding to the Attack." Serino said that FEMA works with communities throughout the U.S. to prepare for various disaster scenarios and that training contributed to a well-executed response by Boston first responders.

"The events in Boston have highlighted how close coordination among federal, state, and local officials is critical in the immediate aftermath and response to terrorist attacks and reinforces the principle and value of whole community contributions, including from the general public," Serino said. "Both the work leading up to the Boston Marathon, as well as the quick action following the event, demonstrate the significant progress that has been made over the past ten years."

Serino touched on the importance of grant programs to assess preparedness gaps in U.S. cities. For instance, in 2012, Boston completed a threat and hazard identification and risk assessment to find regional capability gaps and prioritize investments in important deployable capabilities. He also said many of the capabilities demonstrated in Boston after the bombings were built or improved upon through Homeland Security Grant Programs.

"As a former paramedic and chief, I can attest to the importance of preparing our public safety and medical personnel for whatever may come," Serino said. "FEMA grant funds provided commodities and training that were essential in response to the explosions."

Serino also discussed the need for preparedness planning drills. Since 2000, more than 5,500 Boston-area responders received training through FEMA partners.

Serino said that FEMA prides itself on learning and improving its approach from every event. He said that emergency response to disasters can be improved in the future by engaging in mass casualty planning, training and exercises involving rapid deployment to initiate treatment at or near the point of injury, improving coordination between responder agencies and local healthcare delivery to improve victim transport, treatment and triage and establishing protocols on the medical principles of tactical emergency casualty care.