AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Aurora Fire Rescue crew members are completing de-escalation training to help crew members respond to people experiencing a crisis. Despite paramedics regularly responding to these types of calls, de-escalation training is pretty rare within fire departments.
“I’ve been doing this for 34 years and it’s nothing we’ve ever formally done, and it seems like the right time and place to bring this to life,” said Aurora Fire Rescue’s training chief, Commander Mark Hays.
The training comprises three phases that teach self-awareness, body positioning and voice modulation to help soothe individuals experiencing anxiety, stress or psychological trauma. On Monday, paramedics walked through scenarios played out by actors, such as a veteran with PTSD or a woman experiencing a mental health crisis.
“It’s long overdue as a general population. This isn’t a call we practice for very often, but it is a common call that we’d run into,” said Ryan Wall, a firefighter and paramedic.
The training was specifically designed for the department by Aurora Fire Rescue’s medical director, Dr. Eric Hill, and Lisa LaDue, a licensed clinical social worker.
“These are skills that no one teaches and that are so important in these difficult situations involving psychological disorders,” LaDue said.
Aurora Fire Rescue entered a consent decree with the Colorado attorney general in February 2022. The agreement to make changes came after the Attorney General’s Office found the department had a pattern of inappropriately administering ketamine to sedate people. It’s a practice that was suspended by the state in July 2021.
“The consent decree for me has been a giant mirror saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing, and are there ways you can do it better?'” Hays said. “I think it’s provided us opportunities to improve. I think continuous quality improvement is something we should all be striving for, and I think it’s given us all an opportunity to look for and find these ways we can better serve our community.”
Aurora Fire Rescue is made up of nearly 500 firefighters and paramedics, all of whom are required to go through this training.