Bombing boosts security concerns for event planners
TEST RUN: More than 4,400 people participated in the 2012 CVS Caremark Downtown 5K last September. A CVS spokesman says the company will work with Providence officials on security in the aftermath of last week’s Boston Marathon bombing.
In the aftermath of the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon, security is being defined, redefined and arranged, as spring takes hold in Rhode Island and civic leaders prepare for crowds expected at marathons, 5K walks, food festivals and Providence’s signature crowd-pleaser – WaterFire.
“We like WaterFire to appear simple, almost magical,” said WaterFire creator and Executive Artistic Director Barnaby Evans. “We don’t want to have barriers and cage people in. But … we’ve considered security closely as part of our overall planning for every one of the 19 years of WaterFire.”
WaterFire has attracted attention from cities around the world with its ritual of boatmen lighting fires on the river, complemented by music, food and community celebration. The unique public gathering has been credited for being the spark that brought life and thousands of visitors from afar to downtown Providence.
The crowds at WaterFire have reached an estimated 100,000 at peak times, averaging about 1 million per season, Evans said.
“We just try to do [security] as quietly as possible with undercover and uniformed officers,” said Evans. Sometimes precautions include bomb-sniffing dogs, he said.
“We have always closely coordinated our security with public-safety officials. We’ve already had a conversation with them, and we’re waiting for the FBI’s internal feedback that will go directly to police,” Evans said the day after the April 15 Boston tragedy, where the explosion of two bombs near the finish line left more than 170 injured and, as of April 18, three dead.
“We will refine the issues to think about, in light of what we learn from Boston once the forensic analysis is finished,” Evans said.
As law enforcement has made clear since the April 15 bombing, police can’t manage all the details of security alone – authorities have repeatedly petitioned the public to come forward with any information, video or photos that might help determine the identity of the person or group who set off the bombs and track them down.
With the increase of smartphones with cameras, public input has become an important part of public safety.