Behind those familiar words lies a fun­da­mental tenet of emer­gency man­age­ment: Sys­tems to pro­tect the public need to be prac­ticed and val­i­dated. As it is, first respon­ders con­stantly test their response plans. These efforts can be small tabletop exer­cises, like those per­formed in the buildup to the Boston Marathon today, or large sim­u­la­tions of cat­a­strophic events with people acting the parts of vic­tims. Some of these exer­cises are helpful, others a waste of time. But in the end, they don’t fully suf­fice because every­body knows it is just a test.

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