Fire Rescue Paramedics Embed With SWAT Team in High-Risk Situations

SWAT paramedics receive extensive law enforcement training

An elite group of Fire Rescue paramedics works side-by-side with the County sheriff's SWAT team in potentially volatile situations - defusing hostage standoffs, confronting armed and barricaded suspects, and rounding up people accused of felonies.

Hillsborough County's Medical Emergency Response Technicians are attached to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office SWAT team. They train together throughout the year, both to ensure everyone knows intricate emergency procedures, and so that each person reacts seamlessly to the movements of fellow responders in life-or-death situations.

Fire Rescue's SWAT Medics are certified law enforcement officers. They receive emergency medical training through Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, and law enforcement skills by working with HCSO experts. Each squad member has ballistic gear such as two types of bulletproof vests, a helmet, and a Glock 21 sidearm.

Up to a dozen Hillsborough County paramedics serve on the elite squad. They must prepare for any emergency. That can mean rappelling from a helicopter into a crime scene, pursuing a suspect aboard a ship, or knocking down doors to find and subdue a gunman.

Along with intense instruction to qualify for the SWAT Medic squad, the paramedics receive at least 250 hours of additional, continued training each year.

Unlike other Fire Rescue paramedics, they are trained and equipped to enter the "hot zone" of a crime scene with the sheriff's SWAT team. Their mission is to provide medical assistance to fellow emergency responders and others, including victims and injured suspects, while also protecting themselves.

Fire Rescue's other 900 or so paramedics will not retrieve or treat victims at the scene of a volatile crime until the area is neutralized and deemed secure by law enforcement, meaning the threat - often an active shooter - is contained in a protected perimeter. Even then, these paramedics are escorted by two armed sheriff's deputies, to ensure their safety.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is a leader in ensuring its SWAT Medic squad is highly trained and well equipped. It exceeds national standards for coping with these high-risk situations.

Photo: SWAT Medic squad members Brett Vaughan (left) and Paul Everett pose with some of their gear.


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