While details of what happened in Boston today, with multiple explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, are just beginning to emerge, there is a framework in place for federal, state and local officials to respond to such situations -- and try to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
In the January/February issue of Government Executive, Charles S. Clark explored the Homeland Security Department's network of fusion centers. The centers bring together officials at all levels of government to share information (especially about potential terrorist activity) and coordinate responses to crisis situations. The most recent prominent example of such a center at work involved the response to Hurricane Sandy last October, conducted out of the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center in West Trenton, N.J. Clark's piece focuses on this center.
The Boston area is served by the Commonwealth Fusion Center in Maynard, Mass. According to its website, the center "works with federal, state, regional and local law enforcement, as well as the public and private sector as the state repository for homeland security information and incident reporting. It serves as a point of contact for local entities seeking to receive information from federal agencies. It collects and analyzes information to produce and disseminate actionable intelligence to support decision makers and operational personnel."
When it comes to preventing terrorism, the fusion centers have come in for their share of criticism recently.