University of Akron professor says Boston lockdown was part of greater plan to catch suspect

CLEVELAND - Of the many photos that went viral after the Boston Marathon Bombings was one of a police officer carrying jugs of milk to a family who was stuck in their home as the Watertown and Boston areas were under lockdown.

The lockdown was something that surprised many people, which is what NewsChannel5 discussed as we sat down with University of Akron Professor Terry O'Sullivan.

"It's an usual event to have to do something like that," said O'Sullivan speaking about the lockdown, but it's what the Akron professor says helped authorities close in on their suspect, even though there was a risk. 

O'Sullivan explained, "The public can be panicked if you do it and also, they may just decide not to comply."

But they did comply, even giving police key information along the way, all evidence of the bigger picture or what O'Sullivan said is a successful Emergency management plan.

O'Sullivan, also the university's director for emergency management and homeland security research, said, "getting people coordinated and getting the message out, it's all very complicated. So it's not anything you do lightly."

The impacts of not having a strong emergency management plan, he also said, was seen during 9/11, "tremendous bravery and dedication among the police department and fire department, but their radios didn't communicate with one another and even the radios they did have were overwhelmed because the system wasn't set up well. And that's the type of thing that can make a disaster a catastrophe."

Now, there are federal outlines in place that guide local, state and federal agencies when it comes to working together.

"We are well prepared to hopefully detect, disrupt, and respond to any incident," said Bureau of Homeland and Services Commander Herald Patel at a Tuesday news conference, one day after the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Although the Cleveland area, not just individual schools, hasn't really gone under lockdown in recent years, northeast Ohio actually has a regional fusion center where O'Sullivan said local, state and federal leaders can physically work together from one location to carry out an emergency plan, something Westlake Police Captain Guy D. Turner said is just as important for surrounding areas as it is for major cities.

"Half of the battle is knowing your counterpart," said Turner, "If you know the head of your local state police barracks are, if you know who the head of the local division of the FBI is, you've already got a face-to-face relationship. It's going to go a lot easier."

Looking at Boston closely, Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell, also head of the public safety committee said, "You've got to look at lessons learned, what worked there and what doesn't work."

Going back to the lockdown, O'Sullivan noted, "One thing Boston did that I think was wise and also practical was that they made it voluntary. They didn't say, ‘You have to be off the streets' they said ‘we prefer you be off the streets."

Handling the lockdown in this way, O'Sullivan said, really helped police work with the public as they searched the Boston and Watertown areas.

Captain Turner said, "The description of the firefight where they were first throwing explosives out of the car, I thought that has to be out of a movie, post 9/11, you realize we're all kind of in this together and we have to cooperate."

For more information on the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center and more on how you can help fight terrorism, click here:

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