- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - On a still, foggy morning, SWAT vehicles rolled into a quiet Greeley neighborhood and prepared for a shooting.

A tactical emergency medical team was right behind waiting to help anyone who’d been injured.

They spilled onto the lawn, many clad in Kevlar vests, and followed the officers into the murky danger.

On this day, there was no real danger. It was a drill set up and run by Troy Osborn, division chief for North Colorado Medical Center’s Paramedic Services, and Greeley Police Sgt. Fred Meyer.

Osborn sets up the drills because his tactical EMS team of eight gets called out to offer medical support along with SWAT. Training together regularly helps real situations run more smoothly between the two organizations.

Osborne said Colorado has had some of the biggest active shooter events in the nation’s history, such as Columbine and the Aurora theater shooting. Though Greeley hasn’t experienced a tragedy of that caliber, Osborne doesn’t want to wait until something happens to prepare for it.

After the Aurora theater shooting in July 2012, EMS and law enforcement changed how they approached active shooter situations.

Instead of waiting for the building to be cleared by law enforcement before treating folks with life-threatening injuries, EMS and firefighters can go into a building right away - as long as they have two police officers covering them.

“It’s been a huge game-changer having tactical EMS medics with us,” Meyer said. “If one of our guys gets hurt, they can help right away. If we hurt a suspect - we try not to - we have people who can render aid.”

On the first of every month, members of SWAT and North Colorado Medical Center’s tactical paramedic team run through a training drill. Meyer said they choose locations that simulate real life. Since most of the time SWAT gets called to houses, that’s where they do the training. Usually they use rental properties. The team makes sure to knock on neighbors’ doors to explain they are going through a drill.

The team trains for 20 hours a month, often participating in active-shooter drills with Greeley law enforcement agencies.

The way EMS approaches treatment changed too, Osborne said.

In an active shooter situation, EMS goes in with a more tactical mindset. That means paramedics focus on different treatment priorities than a typical 911 call.

“EMS guys have to be comfortable with doing minimal stuff to keep people alive,” Osborne said.

For the most part, that means making sure people don’t bleed to death.

In active killing situations, chest injuries are the leading cause of death, followed by head wounds and massive hemorrhaging, Osborne said. So paramedics practice applying chest seals and tourniquets.

It’s a lot more like combat medicine, Osborne said.

After Columbine and the Aurora theater shooting, agencies began to set policies so everyone would know their role in an emergency, Meyer said.

It’s better to have a plan established so everyone involved can fall back on their training when the adrenaline kicks in, Osborne said. In an emergency, figuring out protocol between different agencies wastes time. If they have systems in place and already know how to work together, they can do it to save lives.

Osborne likes training together and getting to know law enforcement officers and firefighters.

“On the big one, we’re all going to be there,” Osborne said. “We can get to know each other now.”

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Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, http://greeleytribune.com

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