PUTTING ISSUES INTO PERSPECTIVE
AN UNSUNG HERO
Remembering visionary Boston EMS
Special Operations Captain Bob ‘Sarge’ Haley
By A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P
Iwrite this Editor’s page with a very heavy heart, having learned of the passing of a great friend and colleague, Captain
Bob “Sarge” Haley who developed EMS
special operations not only in Boston, but
It’s somewhat ironic that Bob passed away
on the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew,
as it was one of many disasters he responded
to, along with Hurricane Katrina.
Thirty-five years ago, when EMS was in
its infancy, Bob was a pioneer in the training of new EMTs. Throughout the years,
his innovative approach to training helped
to mold hundreds of EMTs and paramedics
into well-rounded, skilled clinicians.
AN MCI VISIONARY
Bob’s vision was light years ahead when it
came to emergency preparedness and planning for mass casualty incidents (MCIs). He
had a unique, very tough leadership style, but
his care and passion for doing the right thing
were evident; he was loved by the men and
women of Boston EMS.
Sarge’s expertise in logistics, special operations and prehospital emergency medicine
led the way for multiple advancements in EMS. His passion for
training and helping others translated into a meticulous approach
to planning for the unknown.
He always thought outside
the box, and explored concepts
and equipment that weren’t traditional in EMS. His arsenal
included special auxiliary vehicles, electric carts, EMS bikes,
ambulance buses and large specialty trailers.
To Bob, it wasn’t about what
EMS can do, but what EMS
should do. A mentor in EMS and
in life, his rough exterior masked the natural
born teacher he was.
It was no accident that the response to
the Boston Marathon bombings went as
smoothly as it did. Bob’s unyielding efforts
over the years got the right equipment, training and people in the right place.
Because of his preplanning, training and
precise operational staging, his troops performed like it was a drill, with their actions
saving countless lives.
When you watch the documentary produced after the marathon, discussing how
Boston crews responded, you can hear in
Bob’s voice the great love he had for Boston
EMS, the challenge of special operations and
the pride he felt for the way his people performed that day.
A ‘TRIAGE TAG PIPE DREAM’
Few people know that in 1982, long before
I moved to California to work at JEMS, I
taught an MCI management workshop for
Bob and his EMS colleagues in the greater
Taking a break from the weekend-long
workshop over a beer, Bob told me that he
wanted a functional triage tag that could be
used easily and on a daily basis.
He didn’t want, as he said, “one of those
damn complex, awkward triage tags designed
by some a** who never worked a mass casu-
alty event in their life!”
At his request, I designed and produced
a triage tag that met his func-
tional needs and had a lot of
important, concise information
carefully placed on a small tag.
It was produced in full-size and
On one side, it had detailed
patient information that could
be read over the radio to receiving hospitals. Crews could use
it on any EMS call or at MCIs.
On the other side was an easy-to-use triage tag that featured a
simply drawn stick figure and the
only tear-off “transportation stub”
in existence at the time. The stub
Legendary Captain of Special Operations for Boston
EMS, Bob ‘Sarge’ Haley. Photos A.J. Heightman
Briefing the troops at the 2014 Boston Marathon ( https://youtu.be/oUKzzwSh2fE).