In this month's cover story, Sara Schreiber reports that as public safety systems carve out special SWAT paramedic teams, yesterday's traditions of keeping fire, EMS and police separate entities are being redefined. (Page 28) Similarly, the June issue featured a story on how multi-agency pre-planning factored into the rapid response to the shooting on the Northern Illinois University (NIU). (June 2009, "In the shadow of slaughter," Page 32.) NIU Chief Don Grady, with international policing experience and an impressive law enforcement background, stresses that all agencies should work closely with one another.
The trouble is, he says, many agencies believe their relationship already goes beyond the common police/fire relationship. But Grady makes it clear that having a good working relationship "goes beyond cordiality."
"[We] have established a functional working model, which includes extending the initial emergency medical response to [police EMTs]. This allows for a rapid, efficient and effective early medical intervention even when the scene has not been determined to be safe."
Grady also explains that NIU PD and DeKalb Fire hold a monthly standing meeting to ensure continuity of operations, and have regular meetings between the chiefs to address issues. A number of NIU PD officers have been trained by the same medical system as the firefighters, so members of both teams are instructed on the same medical skills. As another example of multiple-agency teamwork, Grady says DeKalb FD was active in training about 1/3 of the NIU police personnel as hazmat technicians and thusly, the two agencies are able to work together to practice various event responses.
In all likelihood, most agencies could use a re-evaluation to diagnose their departmental relationships. The bottom line, Grady says, is that all agencies in an area must regularly meet and practice responses together to develop a fluid reaction to manage chaos such as the NIU shooting. If anything, taking a step back to review cooperation and relationship health can't hurt; but being disjointed and unprepared in a multi-agency response event could.
P.S. For details on the Cygnus Public Safety Group's super show — which brings fire, EMS and police together under one roof Oct. 28 to 30 — visit www.enforcementexpo.com.