After two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, April 15, three people were killed and more than 260 others injured. Although, shocked by the event, Boston and federal law enforcement spent the next four days conducting a full-scale manhunt. Boston Police Officer Michael Connolly, responded as the crisis unfolded. In 2012 Officer Connolly's department sent a small group to the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala., for the Emergency Responder Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (ERHM) course.
"What the professional and experienced instructors gave us that week served us well for eight straight days and nights on Boylston Street," said Connolly.
As a member of the Boston Police Crime Scene Response Unit (CSRU), Connolly and his team were on duty as the explosions rocked the city of Boston. Traditionally, Boston refers to April 15 as Patriot's Day—a day that represents the hard work, dedication, and resiliency of the human spirit of the runners, family and friends. Even so, Connolly never thought that such a tragedy would strike his hometown, he said.
"Less than a year ago, several of us from Boston PD attended training at the CDP," said Connolly. "We took the training in an effort to create a [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives response] Crime Scene Response Unit. Because of our training we knew that a safe, calculated and systematic approach to the bomb site was required. The CDP skills we learned made us able to proceed with knowledge and confidence—our two main takeaways."
ERHM training provides a hands-on experience in identifying hazardous materials, using advanced survey and monitoring equipment, selecting appropriate levels of personal protection and performing decontamination procedures, to include evidence preservation. Connolly said that following the explosions he knew a CBRNE element could be involved and the biological hazards were obvious. But, because he and four other officers from the CSRU have attended the ERHM course, they were prepared.
"Just having the knowledge that contaminates could be present provided us the knowledge to pre-stage and select the appropriate levels of PPE," said Connolly. "We preserved evidence, collected valuable information for investigators and safely with confidence followed procedures to ensure integrity of the scene. The ERHM course is not a course only for hazardous materials technicians."
The Boston PD, alongside the ATF, FBI, and the Massachusetts State Police processed the scene. Connolly said the Boston CSRU were equipped to handle the crime scene, providing two days of personal protective equipment for the investigators. He said cross contamination can damage a crime scene and the training his team received served as a valuable asset in their approach in the identification, preservation, and collection of important evidence from the scene.
"The knowledge and confidence we took away [from the CDP] allowed us to talk a common language with other first responders and proceed in a biologically contaminated site. We were able to process the crime scene and preserve evidence safely. I can't express the importance of the availability of CDP training."
Connolly has also attended non-resident training provided by the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University where he took the Advanced Forensic Investigation for Hazardous Environments. He said he finds his experience from NDPC courses invaluable in his career and plans to attend more training in the future with other members of the Boston PD.