Our work at Boston Emergency Medical Services
Our department is a recognized leader in emergency medical service and the largest municipal EMS in New England. We have 371 full-time uniformed emergency medical technicians, paramedics, supervisory and command personnel.
KEEPING THE CITY HEALTHY AND SAFE
Our primary mission is responding to medical emergencies, but we also serve the City in other ways:
- We work with public and private partners to enhance emergency planning and preparedness.
- We support City services and injury prevention through reporting and analytic efforts.
- Through community engagement, we educate residents about safety and lifesaving skills.
You can see details on our divisions below.
The Field Operations Division is responsible for delivering the 9-1-1 emergency medical response to the citizens and visitors of Boston. The division works 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.
We utilize a two-tier response model offering Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support. We operate 27 frontline ambulances, including 22 Basic Life Support, and five Advanced Life Support units. Every day, we answer the call for more than 335 emergencies, and respond to over 125,000 calls each year.
Basic Life Support ambulances are staffed with two EMTs who are trained to respond to critical incidents. They are responsible for treating, stabilizing, and transporting patients to hospitals. Advanced Life Support ambulances are staffed by two Paramedics who have highly-developed medical skills. They are also capable of delivering complex treatments in the field. Ambulance crews are supported by Division Supervisors, Captains, and Shift Commanders.
Often referred to as “the real first responders,” EMT-Telecommunicators assigned to Dispatch Operations:
- answer 9-1-1 phone lines
- provide pre-arrival instructions to callers
- dispatch EMS units, and
- coordinate communication between pre-hospital providers and receiving hospitals throughout Boston.
Here’s how Boston EMS Dispatch Operations responds to an emergency:
- When 9-1-1 gets a medical call, it’s transferred to a Boston EMS EMT-Telecommunicator serving as a call taker.
- Call takers verify the call and location, get relevant incident information and provide pre-arrival instructions to callers. Each incident is type-coded, using a standard protocol, to decide what the priority and resource deployment needs are.
- As soon as enough information is entered by the call taker, another Boston EMS EMT-Telecommunicator acts as a dispatcher. They assign units to the incident, allowing the call taker to stay on the phone with the caller, if necessary.
In addition, Dispatch Operations oversees the Central Medical Emergency Direction system. The system allows EMS field providers to coordinate with area hospitals throughout the 62 cities and towns in the Boston area. Boston EMS telecommunicators staff the system 24-hours a day.
Telecommunications perform the following:
- link field providers to hospitals
- manage EMS channel usage
- provide EMS resource information, and
- offer command and control assistance during mass casualty incidents.
The Special Operations Division facilitates medical coverage and coordination of assets, resources, and logistics during special events and emergencies. This allows Boston EMS to respond to large-scale emergencies without compromising our ability to support the hundreds of 9-1-1 calls we receive every day.
To quickly respond to and treat patients during special events and major emergencies, we use resources beyond traditional ambulance units, including:
- a medical ambulance bus
- utility vehicles and bicycles
- specialty trailers, and
- mass casualty incident equipment.
Boston EMS is committed to providing the best care possible through investment in our personnel and their training. The Training Division is responsible for the education and development of all Boston EMS EMTs and Paramedics.
Our uniformed staff gets regularly scheduled continuing education and refresher training that meets or surpasses State standards. The Training Division oversees the six-month EMT-Recruit academy. New hires must complete the academy before they are promoted to department EMT.
Training programs include:
- Basic EMT training course
- the Recruit Training Academy
- paramedic training, and
- continuing education.
Within the Training Division, our Research, Training, and Quality Improvement team, conducts critical research designed to introduce new treatment protocols and technologies with the goal of advancing pre-hospital emergency medical care. We listed examples of research projects, as well as clinical and training innovations, below:
CARDIAC ARREST REVIEW
We’ve been studying cardiac arrest cases since 1993. Our research has led to advancements in medical care, and adds to the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States. Therapeutic Hypothermia can protect the brain and improve a victim’s chance of survival. In this treatment, paramedics cool a victim’s body temperature within the first few hours of cardiac arrest.
CONTINUOUS POSITIVE AIRWAY PRESSURE
Through Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, you can force oxygen into the lungs of a victim. We only use this on patients with severe respiratory problems. It reduces the need for a breathing tube and helps prevent complications.
BOSTON AIRWAY REGISTRY
Paramedics learn how to insert breathing tubes when it’s needed. A tube is inserted in a patient’s mouth, allowing oxygen to flow into the lungs. We have a great success rate with this treatment thanks to our skilled paramedics. We created the Airway Registry in 2006 to track quality and success rates.
The lab includes an observation room, an ambulance, and realistic practice dummies. The lab prepares students for the situations they’ll see in the real world.
Boston EMS is committed to protecting the health and safety of Boston's children, teens, adults and elderly. The Community Initiatives Division offers local programs that serve to educate the public on safety and lifesaving skills.
Some of the programs include:
- CPR training for businesses and community groups. Call 617-343-2367 (press option 4, followed by 2) for more information.
- Senior safety presentations, including education on the File of Life Program, Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST), and disaster preparedness.
- Car seat checks and installations. Call 617-343-6891 to schedule an appointment.