Swarm Intelligence: A Lesson in Emergency Response Following the Boston Marathon Bombings

Emergency Response following Boston Marathon bombingsAnother report on the Boston Marathon bombings was released this week out of Harvard University, this time by the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (Initiative). The Initiative’s report, “Crisis Meta-Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence,” analyzes the leadership of the myriad agencies that responded to the event. Specifically, it “seeks to understand how they were able to effectively lead an [emergency response] operation with remarkable results” by measuring “lives saved, suspects quickly captured, public confidence maintained and population resilience fostered.”

The report attributes the remarkable results of response efforts to a phenomenon called “swarm intelligence.” Swarm intelligence is defined as a situation “in which no one is in charge and yet, with all following the same principles and rules, leaders are able to accomplish more together than any one leader could have achieved separately.” According to the report, this was especially prevalent in the Boston case due to the fact that responders avoided competitiveness and “grabbing credit or hurling blame.”

Ultimately, the report finds that the success of emergency response following the bombings was due not only to “an ample measure of good luck,” but also to the planning and preparedness of Boston agencies. The Initiative stresses the importance of having emergency response plans to ensure resilience and to maintain confidence and value among constituents.

To read the previous report out of Harvard University on emergency response efforts following the bombings, check out last week’s HSDL blog post, Why Was Boston Strong? Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing”

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/swarm-intelligence-a-lesson-in-emergency-response-following-the-boston-marathon-bombings