Medics with guns

Like army medics, SWAT paramedic teams combine fire, EMS and police training to provide tactical defense and first aid care in situations civilian teams can't touch


   On missions, members of the SWWR SWAT wear olive drab uniforms, while their TEMS counterparts don black so they are easily identified. All individuals have the same heavy body armor, only TEMS have additional pouches to hold medical gear. Advanced life support medics also carry full ALS kits in addition to trauma care items located on their vest. Some medics, though not all, are armed. Rickard's team posts itself outside the front door and members carry side arms as opposed to long guns. He explains this is because they're close enough should someone call for a medic, but they're not part of the actual assault team. He also found that carrying long arms gets in the way of doing patient care.

   The Vancouver unit also has a tactical rescue vehicle — an old out-of-service Air Force ambulance — for on-site care and shelter. Local businesses pitched in to help paint and refurbish the unit, and the local ambulance company supplied soft goods to go inside.

   "When it's cold and rainy, we're constantly taking people out of the houses," says Rickard. "Some of them are bad guys, some are not. When the house is not secured yet we have to have a warm, dry place to put them ... there's no need for them to be in detrimental weather."

These are special units

   Wood equates today's TEMS teams to how SWAT teams evolved in the early '70s. And certainly these units are evolving every day. In addition to trauma care, SWWR TEMS offer things like health and wellness training for officers and perform EKGs on SWAT every two years. Special paramedics, especially rural teams, benefit from sharing information and training practices in order to achieve better interoperability. Newly formed tactical-medic training institutes across the country also offer great training opportunities and resources.

   For any officer who's ever walked into open fire, or sealed themselves off to face the unknown, they can tell you: It helps to know someone has your back.

   "We ask our officers to do all these kinds of crazy things in life," says Wood. "We give [them] ... the necessary equipment and training so they have the confidence to fulfill that mission.

   As the tactical medics get closer, we're building more confidence in our officers because now they know if something goes bad, they'll be taken care of immediately. The more guns we come up against, and the bigger guns we come up against, the more it's necessary for us to make sure we take care of our officers."

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