So You Want to be a SWAT Medic? #2

Last week we had a brief introduction to the SWAT medic.  This week we will dive deeper into the SWAT medic world, our selection process, and some of the duties we find ourselves performing.

Let me start by saying when our medics operate with the SWAT team we are civilian employees of a local police department. Our unit is designated as a medical support unit.  Our SWAT medics are not armed and have no police powers.  No, not being armed doesn’t bother us.  When we are operating on a mission there is always one officer assigned to each medic (not to mention the 20 other officers carrying big guns!).  Their role is to protect the medic.  This is why it is so important the medics know the officers on the team.  As much as they are placing their lives in our hands should they get hurt, we are placing our lives in their hands to keep us safe in a dangerous environment.  For some, that’s a big pill to swallow. I hear a lot of “you’re crazy for doing that and not having a gun.” Well yeah, we’re not right in the head, I’m not going to deny that. But I think it’s fair to say, in this industry, we’re all a little cray-cray for doing what we do.

Let’s review a few of the requirements to be a medic on our team.  Our medical support unit is licensed as an advanced life support non-transport agency.  We require our providers to be advanced practice, either EMT-Intermediate or EMT-Paramedic.  Additionally, all providers are required to maintain CPR, ACLS, ITLS, PALS/PEPP. Beyond the training and certifications in our selection process, we look for providers that have a strong skill set, the ability to operate independently, and of course are physically fit.  Additionally the prospective provider must be able to pass a background check, interview with the team commanders, andobtain approval from the regional EMS systemTEMS medical director.  This can be a very lengthy process and is something potential candidates must prepare for mentally and physically.  This is not a process you can walk into without serious preparation. Once on the team, our medics complete additional tactical medical training based on TEMS guidelines and TCCC/TECC principles.

Our primary mission as medics finds us ensuring the medical readiness of the officers. During each training session or actual operation, we are constantly assessing the operators for illness or injury that might alter their ability to effectively perform their duties. Every year our officers, medics, and command staff fill out a medical information card.  It is our responsibility to maintain those records and update them every year, or as new officers are added to the team.  Our medical card is very simple: name, date of birth, medical history, medications, past surgeries and allergies. Each operator places that card in their medical kit for access by medics.  This type of information is critical should that officer ever become injured.

Our TEMS command also completes a medical threat assessment on all locations we go to.  Our threat assessment is custom made to our region and agency. If you’re interested in what this entails,  Google “medical threat assessment” and you will find many examples. The planning process also includes staging of an ALS transport unit from our contracted ambulance service.  For planned events, this transport unit will stage multiple blocks away from the incident location.  For immediate events (barricaded gunman, hostage situation, ETC) the transport agency responds one transport unit as well as one supervisor to the designated location by TEMS command.  Generally the transport unit will stage a block or two away while the supervisor will be moved up to the command post.  Our team does this because we like to limit the amount of bodies in the command post.  It has also proven itself to be very beneficial to have the transporting agency supervisor in the command post.  That supervisor can request additional resources as they see fit or as requested by TEMS command.  The working relationship our TEMS unit has with our contract transport agency is a very good working relationship.  As I seem to find myself in the command post frequently I have noticed just how important this relationship is.


That wraps it up for this week.  Join me next week when we discuss rehab in the hostile environment. – Ryan