Independence Blue Cross
Runners race down South Broad Street during the 2012 Broad Street Run in Center City Philadelphia.
Security will be beefed up for the upcoming Broad Street Run, but the course can never truly be protected from a Boston Marathon-type attack.
Bill Nugent, a risk management consultant with Kroll Advisory Solutions and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, says while Philadelphia Police will do everything they can to protect the public, the run’s venue makes things tough.
“The event is not held in a stadium. It’s 10 miles of public roadway, you’ve got spectators lining both sides of the street. There’s no tickets, there’s no fee,” he said. “You’ve got knapsacks and backpacks…and really with no entrances and exits to act as a checkpoint.”
The Broad Street Run, set to take place on Sunday, May 5, has been part of the Philadelphia landscape for 34 years. The race course runs 10-miles along Broad Street – starting at Fisher Avenue to the north and ending at Farragut Street inside the Philadelphia Navy Yard to the south. Around 40,000 runners are expected to participate in the race with thousands more expected to line the route.
“It’s easy to imagine that…with these large crowds, someone could be hiding in there to do harm,” Nugent said. “In one respect, it is confined, but you can’t really fence it off because it would undermine the actual enjoyment of the event.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said security would be tightened for the Broad Street Run, but specific details have been scarce.
Press Secretary Mark McDonald says Philadelphia Police will monitor the race route using permanent and temporary surveillance cameras. He says there will be uniformed and plain-clothed officers in the crowds, but would not elaborate on how many officers will be assigned to the event.
“You have only so many police you can deploy,” Nugent says. “You need to concentrate your resources on where you think they will be most effective and have maximum effect of deterrence and detection.”
Nugent says officials might do more planning ahead of the event and increase communications with sources for intelligence information.
Philadelphia's Public Safety Director Michael Resnick says city officials will be meeting with federal officials. Resnick says officials will discuss how to deal with concerns like items tossed on the side of the road by runners and spectators.
Resnick also says many details will be kept private, but any changes that runners will need to know about will be communicated.
Public transit is another concern.
SEPTA’s Broad Street Line runs directly under the roadway for most of the route. SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel says his department will not be adding additional resources in light of the Boston bombings.
“Any time we have large volume ridership, we ramp up our resources and surveillance of the system,” he said. “We go about a 40-to-50-percent increase on our daily staffing for large scale events.”
Chief Nestel says the transit system has 12,000 surveillance cameras, 1,200 which feature live feeds, and bomb-sniffing dogs to look for suspicious activity.
Four hospitals line the race route – Einstein Medical Center, Temple University Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital and Methodist Hospital. The first three are Level I trauma centers capable of handling mass casualty situations. Methodist Hospital at Broad and Ritner Streets is the closest hospital to the race’s finish line at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Though that is nearly two miles away.
Representatives from many of the city’s trauma hospitals have said they regularly conduct trauma drills for events like the Boston bombings.
“We will review the tragic situation and evaluate our resources for the Broad Street Run on May 5, 2013 while coordinating our preparedness efforts with the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management," said Einstein Health System’s Director of Network Safety John Ward.
Temple University Hospital is also discussing whether to prepare differently for the Broad Street Run.
The public can also play a big role in protecting racers and spectators from harm.
“I believe the citizens of Philadelphia and other people coming to enjoy the event need to be part of the security solution,” says Nugent. “The best protection is always layered security and all of the eyes and ears that are contributing to a safe environment will enhance the overall security.”
Nugent says adjusting what you wear and bring to the race can make a difference for law enforcement.
“If people are not bringing backpacks and they just have a pair of sunglasses and a water bottle, they are not going to distract or redirect law enforcement resources that would otherwise be looking at others."