Firefighter/Paramedic Elliott Carhart, center, explains medical procedures to Brentt Bronson, right, a Clearwater SWAT member and instructor, and is graded by Lt. Michael Elder of Pinellas Park.
PINELLAS PARK – Pinellas Park firefighters and EMTs participated on April 13 in a four-stage training exercise required to join the firefighter SWAT Medic team that will soon expand by six to become the first medical responders for police and residents at crime scenes.
They participated in the series of exercises at the Clearwater Police Training Facility off McMullen-Booth Road and were coached by not only members of their own unit, but by SWAT officers and firefighters from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Clearwater police and others.
The firefighters underwent simulated emergencies complete with gunfire, sirens, injured and distraught victims and even one SWAT team member who played the part of a mentally unstable civilian.
Quietly launched in June 2005, the Pinellas Park SWAT medics are part of a small handful that exist in places like Largo, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
Headed by Lt. Michael Elder, the team that includes Ryan Mitchell and Sean Conrad exchange their firefighter’s gear for police uniforms and bulletproof vests when SWAT responds to an emergency.
The firefighters are trained in police tactics and weaponry. Their job is to go where SWAT police go, be it to a hostage situation or to the home of a barricaded and armed suspect, to provide immediate medical attention to injured officers and civilians.
Created by police Chief Dorene Thomas and fire Chief Doug Lewis, the firefighters are trained medics capable of treating serious combat injuries.
“Police and firefighters work as a team in SWAT,” he said, “and that benefits everyone.”