Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 28, 2013

A window into the Boston EMS response to the Marathon bombings

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 28, 2013

Boston.com (the web portal owned by the Boston Globe) posted  an interesting article today that sheds light into the immediate response of Boston EMS to the Marathon bombings.  Boston.com and Boston EMS cooperated to combine video footage taken at the scene of the attack immediately after the explosions with Boston EMS radio traffic.  Unfortunately, I cannot embed that video in this post.  It can be viewed here:


This was not simply a journalistic exercise but originated in Boston EMS’ after action act reporting procedures.

Part of this year’s review included listening to the radio traffic among EMS personnel assigned to the finish line area while watching a video recorded by Boston.com’s Steve Silva, who was filming runners when two bombs exploded on Boylston Street. Silva continued to record the aftermath and scenes from Boylston Street as emergency personnel responded.

Boston.com provided six minutes of Silva’s footage to Boston EMS so a video could be synchronized with the audio of the radio traffic and used for reviewing the events and for future training sessions.

“A lot of people just had so many mental gaps about what happened, that’s why they wanted to hear the tape and once they hear the tape, a lot of it came back,” Kearney said.

Kearney is Brendan Kearney, the superintendent in chief of the Boston Emergency Medical Services.  For the article he provides background information for various points in the video.

:33 – The first radio transmission is heard.

“Zone 1 is Copley Square, so the person overseeing Zone 1 (deputy superintendent Mike Bosse, in this case) is calling the UCC, which is the Unified Command Center at Boston Police headquarters, where we have police, fire, EMS representatives all watching monitors and things,” Kearney said.

Personnel on the ground at Boylston Street then transmit details such as “two separate devices” and instructions to be cautious.

Kearney also points to several important actions not apparent in the video:

About one minute after the first explosion, a notification was sent via WebEOC, a web-based program monitored by command posts in communities along the route, MEMA, Public Health & Hospital that an explosion has occurred near the finish line.

About three minutes after the explosions, and right after Chief James Hooley’s update, Boston EMS personnel at Dispatch Operations sent a radio alert to all Boston hospital emergency departments advising of an explosion at the Marathon finish line, and to prepare for a mass casualty incident.

 About five minutes after the explosions, additional Boston EMS ambulances are already responding to the incident. Boston EMS contacted mutual aid ambulances via a separate dedicated radio channel requesting additional ambulances respond to a staging area. In addition to Boston EMS units, 60 private ambulances respond to the incident.

The video is worth watching.


UPDATE: I am now able to post the video.

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Comment by Christopher Tingus

August 28, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

In addressing local needs and first response, I am now representing a new product technology. I have decided to represent along with two colleagues as I believe this product will afford local law enforcement another good tool to use in prevention and to be able to move quickly especially in the urban setting:


I was in the area that day here in Boston Strong and while the site was horrific w/so many badly injured, response from the metro Boston area from miles away was phenomenal and kudos to all who within minutes were on scene or en route.

While we were all in brief disbelief that such savage intent was directed on to Boston, such a cosmopolitan city, in a few minutes one began to feel so proud of the men and women of so many agencies prepared to meet any and every challenge.

As it is often said, here in Boston, almost everyone is related to a police officer, firefighter or EMT! When we say Boston Strong, we mean it!


Comment by Carmelo Medina

March 13, 2016 @ 1:07 am

I agree about Chris’ comment that here in Boston there are some of us that are related to someone in BPD, Boston EMS, or Boston Fire. I’m related to multiple family members in all three. Your acknowledgement that Tango2 Rafael Hernandez, not Tando1 was on scene at the time the call came in where P40 (Paramedic40) responded to Boylston St and Exeter would be appreciated. I’m proud of them all and all the fine men and women in uniform in Boston. Boston Strong, all the way!!

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