The Special Operations Division plans for and responds to major emergencies within the City of Boston including both planned special events and unplanned natural and man-made disasters.
Every year Boston hosts several major events which bring millions of people together and require significant emergency medical support: the Boston Marathon, the 4th of July celebration, and First Night. Boston EMS uses these events as “planned” Mass Casualty Incidents to practice and improve upon disaster response procedures. Additionally, there are hundreds of festivals, parades, and other gatherings which require EMS support on a near daily basis. Last year alone, Boston EMS provided medical assistance at over 500 events. While we play a leadership role in preparing for and managing the medical consequences of these events, Boston EMS must also maintain the normal level of EMS coverage for the rest of the City. After all, the City’s daily emergency medical needs continue even during disasters and major events.
Non-traditional EMS Resources
In order to quickly respond to and treat our patients during special events and major emergencies, Boston EMS utilizes resources beyond traditional ambulance units.
For example, the Special Operations Division operates Defibrillator Bicycle Units at various events throughout the year. EMS bike teams are able to maneuver through congested areas and crowds, reaching patients quickly and delivering initial care more rapidly than would be possible with traditional ambulances. EMS bike units often operate in conjunction with EMS all-terrain vehicles which can transport patients through crowds and areas inaccessible by ambulance. Additionally, during major events and emergencies, the Special Operations Division will often deploy fixed medical stations to care for injured and ill victims on-site. Boston EMS EMTs and/or Paramedics are also assigned to the Boston Police Harbor Unit during the City’s active boating season from April through October as well as during special events such as the Tall Ships or the 4th of July Celebration.
The Special Operations Division maintains a number of support units, complete with specialized equipment, capable of responding to large scale medical emergencies. Boston EMS Special Operations has at its disposal Mass Casualty Units, power generators, portable communications equipment, shelter systems, misting stations, and a variety of support vehicles capable of transporting equipment or supplies from the Special Operations cache.
Planning for the Unexpected
A multitude of agencies, both public and private, rely heavily on Boston EMS Special Operations to facilitate medical coverage and to participate in the coordination of assets, resources and logistics during special events and emergencies. The Special Operations Division allows Boston EMS to effectively respond to large scale emergencies without compromising the Department’s ability to respond to the hundreds of 9-1-1 calls Boston EMS receives on a daily basis.