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Canadian at Boston Marathon applauds security effort

The quick reaction, effort and response by security professionals during the Boston Marathon bombing was “how it should be done,” according to one Canadian security expert who was on site the day the terror unfolded.


April 23, 2013
By Karly O'Brien


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Mike Jagger, CEO and president of Vancouver-based Provident Security Services, was supposed to be in the city to see his brother-in-law cross the finish line at the marathon, however, he ended up in the middle of a make-shift police base.

 

The Westin Hotel was locked down for a quite a few hours, and it became the staging ground for many different police teams, explains Jagger. The hotel was also where all the press conferences were taking place.

Two hours prior, Jagger was watching his brother-in-law at different stages of the race, with his wife and four other relatives, until they finally met him at the finish line. They stayed and chatted for about an hour.

The marathon runner and his wife headed back to a friend’s house they were staying at. Jagger and his wife went back to their hotel. As the two walked through the lobby doors, they heard a single boom.

“It sounded as if a motorcycle were backfiring in a parking garage,” says Jagger.

“When the second one went [off] you could tell something was really wrong. We could hear people running and screaming.”

He describes the transformation of the marathon grounds into a police area as “incredible.”

“We were eventually able to get out to get some fresh air later on and it was kind of incredible how the streets transitioned from a marathon to… a massive parking lot [for police vehicles],” says Jagger says, who describes the response as quick and organized.

“I’m not really sure what more could be done,” he says. “We’re very impressed with the response afterwards and the reaction afterwards. As soon as it happened, people were all over it.”

Alan Bell, president of Toronto-based Globe Risk International, says that large public events like marathons make ideal targets because they are so hard to manage.

“Most terrorist groups realize that trying to police or provide security to a major event like that is virtually impossible because there’s thousands of people running, and there’s thousands of people who show up to watch them run,” says Bell.

He adds that anywhere large crowds congregate is an easy target for any terrorist and that’s what they prefer — trying to kill as many people as possible to get maximum publicity.

David Hyde, CEO of David Hyde and Associates in Toronto, says Canadians should take what happened in Boston very seriously.

“I think this is a big wake up call,” says Hyde, who assesses security and risk-management plans on a daily basis. He commented for this story mere days before the RCMP announced that they had arrested two suspects from Toronto and Montreal for allegedly planning to carry out an attack involving a VIA Rail train.

He notes that in the short term Canadian event organizers should be wary of copy cats, but in the long term a higher degree of concern should be placed around security and protecting the community during events.

“It should reinforce the need for a very robust and risk-based security program to be in place for events,” explains Hyde. “Even local and regional events, while they might not need that level of security  to deter a high-level terrorist attack, should be secured to a proportionate standard to the risk that is faced.”

Hyde says, as a security professional, he’d hate to see Canadians brush the incident off.

“Event organizers need to realize that it can happen here, it can happen to them,” explains Hyde. “I think there’s a lot of room for Canadian events to be more thought-through [security-wise].”   

Some professionals recommend attendees can assist an event’s security effort by keeping a close watch for anything that looks suspicious, and report it to a nearby police officer or security guard.

“People don’t realize [that] the public are the best eyes and ears because they are standing there with all these people and they’re waiting for something to happen,” says Bell. “If they look around, they may see someone acting suspiciously, they may see someone drop something and walk away from it. So we have to be alert about our surroundings.”

Steve Ryall, the race director for the London, Ont., Forest Road City Races, which will take place on April 28, declined to be interviewed for this story, but provided a statement via e-mail.

“Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, as well as, with the runners, spectators, volunteers and staff of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA),” Ryall says.

“The safety and security of all Forest Road City Race participants is and will be our top priority. We will continue to work hand in hand with the London Police Services as we plan for upcoming events.”

As a regular at marathons, Jagger says what transpired in Boston was a brutal ending to an otherwise amazing event.

“It’s just such a major deal for everyone to cross the finish line. Watching that happen is what makes a marathon such a cool and great event. You walk away from it feeling all inspired.”