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Home > Topics > Legislation & Funding
July 19, 2011
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Armed medics? Seriously?

By Arthur Hsieh

Ohio legislators have crafted legislation giving medics the right to carry guns when they go on calls with SWAT teams. The law would also treat medical personnel like police in that they would have immunity from civil suits in connection with their use of guns when working with the SWAT team.

On the heels of the Washington DC Fire and EMS-cum-security force story last week, is this one about arming EMS personnel in Ohio.

I have to shake my head.

There is a role and a need to have medically trained personnel with tactical law enforcement units for the protection of the officers and the public.

I encourage that situation. It requires significant training on all of the team members to fully understand the ability of that non-sworn officer to engage with the situation and the team itself.

Most importantly, there is significant training and preparation for the tactical EMS provider. All of this effort is required for a situation that is planned out and rehearsed for, prior to any engagement.

Unfortunately this bill is not about that. This bill allows for the arming of EMS personnel for "protection" in situations that are totally spontaneous and unpredictable.

Honestly, will a firearm improve the odds of safety in that type of situation? I'm not a firearm advocate nor, on this issue, am I a tree hugger. But I don't understand how carrying a concealed weapon tips the balance of control and power for the EMT.

Personally, I like avoiding the situation entirely in the first place. Staging is appropriate; change dispatch protocols if necessary. Use police officers, whose training allows them to be the experts at this, to clear the scene prior to arrival.

Safe scene practices are key: being aware of your surroundings, keeping an exit pathway open, and monitoring the patient's body language and tone of voice. Most of all, remaining calm, and confident will keep the pot from boiling over, so to speak.

Adding a gun to the mix isn't going to help that.

 

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. In the profession since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a published textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at a rural hospital-based ALS system. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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