Armed medics are a new reality

Mass shootings require first responders to be capable of handling dangerous situations.

Jasper Johnson

As strings of mass shootings continue both in the United States and globally, an interesting development among first responders has proven useful in treating shooting victims: Communities are introducing something called “tactical medics.” 
 
The first person to respond to the San Bernardino shooting was an armed SWAT doctor, and medical responders to the recent Colorado Springs attack clad themselves in body armor. For better or worse, active shooter situations and terror attacks mandate a new breed of paramedic and first responder. 
 
Active shooter situations, in which shooters are at large and pose a threat, are difficult for emergency medical services (EMS) to address. Law enforcement often needs to clear an area to make sure it’s secure before EMS can treat any victims. This can waste time and prohibit medical responders from immediately helping victims. 
 
Tactical emergency medical technicians (EMTs), on the other hand, often train with SWAT teams, wear body armor and specialize in treating victims in “hot zones.” Some of them even carry weapons. 
 
While some people may be put off by the idea of having tactical EMTs — whether because of fears of police militarization or ethical concerns about having medical responders with guns — I believe these EMTs could prove invaluable in terror incidents or active shooter scenarios. Such scenarios require that first responders are able to provide immediate medical care to victims even in dangerous situations that traditional EMS can’t access.
 
Given the changing scenarios that first responders face, it is important that EMS adapt to the disturbing realities of our time however they can.