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Boston's First Responders Ready for Anything After 2013 Marathon

Boston EMS wants this year's marathon story to be about the weather, and the runners, once again.


Even after last year's marathon, Boston EMS is preparing for this year the way they do for most, with an eye on the weather.

The bombings, of course, they couldn't predict. But at a major sporting event, with a majority of amateurs on the course, they will be ready for anything.

Special Ops EMT Denny Chan was at the wheel guiding NECN through the city, approaching the finish line, when he quickly diverted his route to a man down in South Boston.

Two weeks before this year's marathon, these are ordinary days for Boston EMS.

This is what they do, just as they did last year in the weeks leading up to the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.

On April 15, their response was critical. No one died at any Boston hospital that day or in the days that followed.

But someone had to get the patients there.

Boston EMS had 13 ambulances at the finish line and another 25 around the city.

"That's something that we drill for, we practice for, distributing the patients so that no one hospital gets overwhelmed," said Jim Hooley, Chief of Boston EMS.

"We transported 118 in the first 25-30 minutes, said Boston EMS Special Operations Captain Bob Haley. "Eighteen of them had traumatic amputations of an extremity, and that's incredible. You don't see that in war time."

Inside a building that divides Roxbury and Jamaica Plain in the geographical center of the city sits a brick fortress that looks a lot more like a jail than a warehouse with state of the art equipment inside.

This is Boston EMS Special Ops.

It's Haley's rescue unit, complete with gators and golf carts, bikes and emergency packs, gurneys and backboards, ambulances and medical supplies to stock them.

All of these tools are essential for every Marathon Monday, none more than this past year.

"I was at the rear of the main medical tent at St. James and Dartmouth when we heard the first explosion. I was actually with Captain Haley," Hooley said.

"We heard the first explosion and we kind of stuttered and looked at each other," said Haley. "We heard the second explosion 13 seconds later, and I can't tell you on camera what we said. He went one way and I went the other and the game was on."

You might think the focus of Boston EMS is on the tragic events of last year, and on the critical response to mass casualty this year, just in case.

But Hooley says, 2014, as with 2012, they will have an eye on the thermometer, their primary purpose on Marathon Monday.

"It was 87 degrees when it hit in Boston, and that's not normal for us in April. So as a consequence we did wind up with a lot of runners that became ill or whose injuries were aggravated by the heat," Hooley said.

"Thirty thousand people running 26 miles in who knows what, and the weather really has a lot to do with their outcome and how they're going to wind up in Boston toward the end," said Haley. "And that's the thing, that's a big nut for us to crack."

Boston EMS is not rooting for 87 degrees on Marathon Monday, but wants this year's story to be about the weather, and the runners, once again.