Here's how it works: A map of all 26.2 miles of the event shows real-time movement of runners, live traffic and weather, the number of patients in medical tents, and even things like emergency vehicles and helicopter landing pads. An estimated 200 people are logged in at any given time, broadcasting the statistics to groups of people from federal authorities in Washington to local law enforcement.
When anything happens, from a cell tower getting overloaded to a suspicious package appearing, someone on the ground calls a liaison at the command center to flag it on the map.
Boston Marathon Dashboard, courtesy the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Command-and-control platforms are key when every second counts, said Michael O'Neil, CEO of MSA Security, who isn't involved in the Boston Marathon, but has made security plans for other high-risk events.
"If there was a security event at mile 5, you want to communicate to checkpoints at the remaining miles," said O'Neil, who was the first commanding officer of the counterterrorism unit of the NYPD after 9/11. "That's where a command-and-control apparatus comes into play. Lock down areas, stop secondary and tertiary attacks — that's what law enforcement will think of."