ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- First responders say five minutes can be the difference between life or death. That's why the Arapahoe County Sheriff's office is in the process of adding more medics to its SWAT team.
A SWAT medic is trained as both a firefighter EMT and a sheriff's deputy. This means they can enter an active scene even if shooters are still at large.
“The most dangerous, the most high-risk type of operations," said Cpt. Ken McKlem with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.
In any SWAT scenario, time is of the essence.
“Five minutes could make a difference from bleeding to death if you have gunshot wounds to anywhere vital and surviving," McKelm said. “The old way of doing things is: we would have fire EMS stage in a nearby parking lot and if something were to happen inside the house, they are five minutes away."
The loss of time and the five-minute wait is no more for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. Now, when a SWAT team responds, medical professionals are right there with them as a part of the initial operation. It's all thanks to the addition of what they call SWAT medics.
“We understand using firearms, we understand the safety, we understand how to work with them. So not only are we providing medical care, we’re able to provide our own safety and security while we’re moving through the building," one of the SWAT medics said.
“When they deploy, like they did a few weeks ago, SWAT medics are right there with them," McKlem said, referring to the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting.
Because the agency had SWAT medics, EMTs were inside the STEM School right away, even before the shooters were taken into custody.
“We were able to treat people that were inside the building, get them out to help, get them out to the fire department where they were able to take over care and actually get them to the hospital in a timely manner," a SWAT medic said.
In addition to firearms and protective gear, the SWAT medics also take tourniquets and medicine.
A SWAT medic said, “Inside our bag is almost like a mini trauma kit.”
The idea of SWAT medics has been around for some time, but the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office just recently decided to try it out. They added three SWAT medics in 2018 and with the growing needs for more, two new deputies will be brought on this year.