Ark. paramedics form tactical EMS team for SWAT

The TEMS team is familiar with the types of emergencies the SWAT team responds to, allowing them to respond more quickly to those situations

By Thomas Saccente
The Times Record

FORT SMITH, Ark. — A team of Fort Smith EMS paramedics will now be able to work directly alongside the Fort Smith Special Weapons and Tactics team.

After a period of intense training, five paramedics will serve as part of the Fort Smith Tactical Emergency Medical Services team. Daniel Grubbs, Fort Smith police sergeant and assistant commander of the Fort Smith Police SWAT team, said TEMS will be allowed to work more closely with the Fort Smith SWAT team, allowing them to be of more immediate assistance during SWAT emergencies.

"In the past, any time that the SWAT team goes operational, we've always had EMS on standby within a very close proximity in case something bad happened," Grubbs said. "Well, we began talking with (Fort Smith EMS Executive Director Tim Hearn) and we came up with an idea, 'Let's have specific EMTs that are assigned with us when we do go operational.'"

Grubbs said the formation of the TEMS team comes with two benefits. The first is that because TEMS responds directly with the Fort Smith SWAT team, the SWAT team will no longer be forced to take other EMS teams away from other emergencies happening in Fort Smith when they go operational. The second benefit is that because the TEMS team is familiar with both the types of emergencies the SWAT team responds to and how they respond to them, they can respond more quickly to these situations themselves.

Hearn said the TEMS team was launched about a month ago, with several SWAT call outs taking place during that time. It was also formed as a reaction to acts of violence that have taken place in the country.

"(With) all the multiple shootings you see, we need EMS more closely attached to the SWAT team, in addition to the fact that we want to help protect our law enforcement officers when they're out there also," Hearn said.

Hearn said in the time between the initial discussions concerning the TEMS team, which began about a year ago, and today, the team has been training in a multitude of ways.

"We started all the training, we selected the medics, we had them going out and training with SWAT a couple days a month," Hearn said. "And then, as we moved along, we got them in actually the Tactical Emergency Medical Service class, and got them through their certifications, and then we had to come up with the ambulance, of course. We actually changed the colors on the ambulance, got them all the right gear, they all have the rifle (plated body) gear. ... (It's) quite expensive, probably cost about $2,500 to $3,000 per medic to suit them out."

In addition, Hearn said the funding to form this team and provide the paramedics with the necessary equipment came out of the Fort Smith EMS budget.

Training for the TEMS team continues to this day. On Monday, Fort Smith paramedic Tim Goodman said the team trained with Fort Smith SWAT on water entry on to other watercraft, as well as marine-type rescue and other events.

"We watched and trained with Fort Smith SWAT entering boats on the water from their SWAT response boat," Goodman said.

Goodman said the team will continue training into the future.

"It's an ever-evolving, ever-fluid training process," Goodman said. "We learn something every time that we go out as a Tactical EMS, so we hope to be able to achieve a continued process of growth and learning as this continues."

Hearn said the five paramedics on the TEMS team are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Copyright 2016 Times Record

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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