As the Lexington Warning System was implemented, local towns mustered their militias. The Groton historian describes that town’s expeditious deployment of its militia:
So well prepared were they for such an emergency and so expeditious their rally, that they arrived at the Groton rendezvous, five miles distant, before the companies there were ready to march.
Many families of militia members fled their homes with good reason as the British plundered and set fire to their homes. The clergy in the area played a role in calming fears; however, as David Hackett Fischer describes,
In the town of Framingham, ten miles southwest of Concord, a strange panic seized the women and children living in the Edgell and Belknap district. Someone started the story that “the negroes were coming to massacre them all!” An historian of that town remembered that “nobody stopped to ask where the hostile negroes were coming from; for all our own colored people were patriots. It was probably a lingering memory of the earlier Indian alarms, which took this indefinite shape, aided by a feeling of terror awakened by their defenceless condition, and the uncertainty of the issue of the pending fight.”
J.P. Campbell points to an additional ingenious characteristic of the Lexington Warning System (my emphasis added):
…a Revere parallel suggests the involvement of common citizenry. They were the viral response. They were the human network. Do today’s citizens get trained to look for certain things? Do ‘special citizens’ get sworn in and work as a ‘network of eyes’ on the street? Well, perhaps the first is a possibility.The Neighborhood Watch Program has a long history in the United States. The days where each local neighborhood had a “Block Captain” is now being resurrected in some neighborhoods around the country. In order to achieve at least a passive surveillance capability throughout the country, it may be worth asking whether such a system can be formalized and systematized nationwide today. The issue, as J.P. Campbell says, centers around trust:
A critical part of any network’s success focuses on trust. Revere was known to Hancock and Adams. He was trusted. Inherently he must have trusted the authority of his source – Joseph Warren. He literally took his information and went with it. Who does today’s society trust to receive information and go with it?
As the Camden Yards scenario is intended to demonstrate, protecting our critical infrastructures and processes against contemporary terrorist threats requires active defensive strategies that incorporate innovative and often nuanced methods of warning. When asked whether he believed public warning could be used to preempt terror attacks, Tom Ridge paused thoughtfully and said: “Public Warning can be preemptive if it is adequate and targeted to a specific threat.” But, he cautioned, “It must be based on trust! There is a real danger in compartmenting information too tightly.”