Air scientists help keep Boston Marathon safe
In the years following the 2013 bombing, the city of Boston has made safety and threat prevention a top priority for its annual marathon. Held on Monday, April 15, this year’s 123rd edition of the Boston Marathon drew around 1 million people and went off without any issues. The event’s safety and success can be attributed to all of the personnel who work tirelessly behind the scenes, including a trio of Leidos environmental experts.
Scientists in our Energy and Environmental Science (EES) Division worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leading up to and during the marathon. On race day, our EES professionals provided air monitoring as a part of the security activities along the marathon route.
“We’re very proud of our long, solid relationship with the EPA. They’re a valued, important customer and we were honored to serve alongside them again on the Boston Marathon, ensuring the safety of all participants,” said Leidos’ Stephen Simonetti.
Simonetti and his colleagues Rafal Volker and Amy Dubois are all environmental engineers on the Scientific, Engineering, Response, and Analytical Services (SERAS) contract. The contract supports the EPA Environmental Response Team (ERT) in providing technical support to the EPA throughout the United States and its territories. SERAS personnel have been part of the multi-agency team supporting the Boston Marathon since 2014, with the team’s level of effort increasing each year.
“I, like many people, remember the marathon bombing with quite vivid details. Although we try to put such horrific days out of our mind, the safety of our event was very much at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” said DuBois.
Outwardly apparent on race day were the 7,000 law enforcement officials working in tandem with security checkpoints deployed throughout the event area to keep runners and attendees safe. But behind the scenes, EES experts worked closely with the State of Massachusetts Division of Fire Services to provide air monitoring instrumentation along the marathon route. The team monitored air at the event so that people on the ground could detect any possible source of danger and react quickly, protecting people at the marathon.
The EES team deployed 47 air monitoring stations which observed for potential accidental or intentional chemical releases along the 26.2 mile race route. Using radio and cellular telemetry, the team transmitted and managed data in real time using EPA/ERT’s VIPER Data Management System, providing subscription-based, secure data access for approved personnel.
Though VIPER automatically sends text or email alerts to decision makers and response personnel whenever an alarm level is exceeded, all 47 stations were manned by real people, on the ground, doing the hard work necessary to keep runners and attendees safe. This air monitoring instrumentation was just one part of a comprehensive detection and response system involving multiple local, state, and federal organizations.
“Each air monitoring station has a multi-gas meter that draws in ambient air and analyzes it for a number of substances, combined with VIPER telemetry to transmit the data to users who can access it anywhere via laptop, cellphone, or tablet” said Volker. “To ready that many monitoring stations in preparation for the event involved many hours of support from additional personnel.”
The EPA was grateful to the EES staff for their hard work and commitment in pulling off the marathon. Catherine Young, On Scene Coordinator for the EPA, thanked everyone for “their tremendous efforts over the past several weeks” and said their hard work “was the reason that the EPA was able to successfully support the event.”
ERT’s Christopher Gallo echoed Young’s comments with a letter thanking and recognizing Dubois, Simonetti, and Volker for their work. “Their efforts over the weekend in setting up 47 [stations] on VIPER was extraordinary,” wrote Gallo. “They worked long days in the cold and rain… to set up the 47 locations and kept them running throughout the marathon.”
The EES team has long been a trusted source and partner of the EPA, with a strong track record supporting the agency’s energy and environmental initiatives. On the SERAS contract, Leidos provides the ERT with around-the-clock response capability with services in health, safety, and quality assurance. In just the past year, Leidos responded to the Kilauea Volcano eruptions; hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; the California wildfires in both northern and southern California; and recent large refinery fires along the Texas Gulf Coast, in addition to the Boston Marathon.