For the past few decades, Dominique Jean Larrey’s field medical evacuation system has served SWAT teams well in the form of Tactical Emergency Medical Support and many tactical teams won’t deploy without them.
Larrey was a surgeon serving in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Army and is recognized for the first modern field medical evacuation system in use by combat units.
The system provided medical personnel to treat combat casualties and evacuated them from the battlefield with the use of horse-drawn carriage to waiting medical personnel behind battlefield lines.
Today’s TEMS Officer
The system has developed over time with the advancement of medical training and medical equipment, and it’s safe to say Larrey would probably be astonished at today’s TEMS officer and the available tactical medical equipment at his disposal.
TEMS personnel have the ability to provide an incredible level of pre-hospital medical support that would make a Vietnam-era medic envious.
Today’s TEMS officer has an advanced assortment of pre-hospital gear and they also have to be just as equipped as any SWAT operator so they can function inside a tactical environment as well as his SWAT counterparts.
If you’re thinking of starting or adding a TEMS unit to your SWAT team or perhaps you’re an individual interested in becoming a TEMS operator, don’t take this lightly when selecting and purchasing your gear.
The TEMS operator needs to be well-equipped to provide quality medical support to an injured SWAT officer — saving money when choosing support supplies is not an option. You must choose products that are battle tested and of high quality.
Purchasing quality, battle-tested equipment will aid in saving lives and preventing unnecessary civil litigation.
Before you select and purchase medical gear, you’re going to need to purchase uniforms and gear that any other SWAT officer utilizes. SWAT team equipment lists are very different from agency to agency.
The best way to figure out what you’re going to need is to speak with your SWAT commanders and get an equipment list. Sometimes the best source for equipment selection is from your future SWAT team members. They will give you good information on what brands to purchase and what not to purchase.
Most importantly, don’t break open the little pink piggy bank before you speak with these guys! It’s common for SWAT puppies to run home and purchase all that is black and tactical upon learning of their selection to the team.
A Basic Equipment List
The following is a basic equipment list which SWAT officers typically use. The TEMS operator will need to gear up with the same tactical gear as his comrades. This list is universal and can apply to most situations.
Your department policy is the best source of reference for uniform and equipment specs. This list is also a basic starting point which can be expanded upon as you develop your skills and preferences. No doubt, many of your agencies will require or suggest more, so take this list at face value.
1.) Ballistic vest
2.) Ballistic helmet
3.) Black balaclava
4.) Eye protection
5.) Ear Protection
6.) Inner gloves
7.) Outer gloves
8.) Medical protective gear
9.) Knee pads
10.) Air-purifying mask
11.) Hydration system
12.) Flashlight (hand and head mount)
13.) Cold and warm weather garments
15.) Flex cuffs and cutter
16.) Extra batteries
17.) Multi tool
18.) Defensive handgun (for those agencies that approve their use)
19.) Rescue tether
20.) Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK): tourniquet, compression bandage, nasopharyngeal tube, nitrile gloves, CPR mask, band-aids, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.
Adding Medical Gear
Now that you are as geared up as SWAT officer, picking the medical gear is next. The tactical medical gear that a TEMS officer may choose to use is subjective to brands and various types.
The TEMS officer may choose to wear various platforms, such as a back pack, thigh rigs, and carry bags to achieve readiness.
The following items are merely a basic but comprehensive list of tactical medical gear that the TEMS officer should maintain and have at his disposal. This list can be customized and expanded to fit your agencies needs and policies.
This first list of items may be worn on the tactical vest using various pouches, to provide easy access.
2.) Nitrile gloves
3.) Face mask and eye shield
4.) Trauma scissors
8.) Compression dressings
9.) Sterile wipes and antibiotic ointment
10.) Over-the-counter pain relievers
11.) Pen and weather-proof paper
12.) List of SWAT member’s medical history and allergies where appropriate
13.) Digital camera
The following items may be worn in a thigh rig, again to provide easy access in a combat environment.
1.) Airway management equipment
2.) Bag mask or ventilator
3.) Surgical airway kit
4.) 14-gauge 3.5” needles for chest decompression
5.) Additional compression bandages
6.) Chest seal
The last list is very comprehensive and the many items will take up a great deal of storage space so a well thought out carry bag is suggested. This bag may be customized as needed or to fit your agencies operating guidelines. The kits as listed below are in themselves are comprehensive and will be customized to your agencies needs and policies.
1.) Back up advanced airway management kit
2.) Assorted IV catheters & IV starter kit
3.) IV fluid bags
4.) Hot & cold packs
5.) Back up dressings
6.) Back up chest seals
7.) Back up tourniquets
8.) Stretcher or litter
10.) Back up masks & gloves
11.) 5/50 cord
12.) Emergency thermal blankets
13.) Sun block lotion, Aloe Vera & insect repellant
14.) Handheld GPS unit
15.) Over the counter pain relievers
16.) Advanced cardiovascular life support meds: atropine, epinephrine, etc
18.) Medical waste bag and sharps container
19.) Suture kit
20.) Sterile saline
21.) Dental kit
22.) Patient tags
23.) Chem lights
Before You Buy Anything
The TEMS operator has a great deal of responsibility and can directly influence the loss of life for an injured SWAT operator. But having all this gear and some basic knowledge doesn’t qualify you as a TEMS operator yet.
First, you must first seek out a reputable and qualified TEMS course prior to being deployed with your SWAT team. Upon graduation from a TEMS course, the TEMS operator will be a valuable asset to any tactical team and police agency.
Sgt. Glenn French