Va. pilot program to train police deputies as EMTs

Trained deputies "could help save someone's life" sheriff says during program's first week

By Greg Jordan
Bluefield Daily Telegraph, W.Va.

TAZEWELL, Va. — Rescue squads, fire departments and law enforcement are dispatched when an emergency is reported, but law enforcement is often first on the scene. With this in mind, Tazewell County's deputies are taking a course that will let them be certified as emergency medical technicians, better known as EMTs.

Deputies with the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office started taking the course Saturday. These classes will continue until September.

"We're really excited," Sheriff Brian Hieatt said. "This is our first week of EMT training for our deputies."

Hieatt said the classes came into being after Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy approached him with it.

"We have great EMT services here in Tazewell County, but we thought having deputies trained as EMTs to assist in our overall EMS (emergency medical service) we have here in Tazewell County," Hieatt said.

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Some of the class's students are patrol deputies who are often out in different areas of the county. Other students are school resource officers who work in the local school system, Hieatt said. The training will allow deputies and school resource officers to help with medical emergencies.

A deputy who works at the Tazewell County Courthouse is receiving the EMT training as well. The courthouse can have up to 100 people in it at any time, so the training will allow that officer to handled medical emergencies there, Hieatt added.

Deputies can find themselves in situations in which somebody has been injured or experiencing a medical emergency such as a heart attack.

"We have great EMS and great response," Hieatt said. "But if a deputy can start helping someone and assess someone while rescue is on the way, it could help save someone's life."

Deputies trained as EMTs will be an asset to the county, said Capt. Randy Ann Davis, 911 director.

"They're a first responder anyway," Davis said, adding that the deputies will learn skills such as how to assess a patient, help control bleeding and open an airway. Deputies will be assigned a trauma, or medical bag, to carry with them once their training is complete.

Stacy said that participants who successfully complete the classes will be able to sit for the National EMT Certification Exam. The idea behind the courses started coming into being when the Bluefield, Va. Rescue Squad closed.

"Tazewell County about three years ago got into the rescue squad business when the Bluefield, Va. Rescue Squad collapsed," Stacy recalled. "As a result, we created a new branch of government: Tazewell County EMS, which is our rescue squad service. With that, obviously, we are now involved of a new form of service we were not exactly experienced in providing."

Tazewell County's size can sometimes make response times longer than providers would like, Stacy said.

"So the concept was we already have our sheriff's deputies out working and patrolling 24-hours a day. What if we trained some of our deputies to also be EMTs to assist our first responders on these medical emergency calls?" Stacy stated.

For example, a deputy who happens to be in Springville when an emergency occurs there could be on scene sooner than EMTs coming from Bluefield, Va., he said.

"The deputy would probably be able to get to the patient faster," Stacy said. "And if an EMT with basic life support training can get there, then the outcome for the patient is incredibly improved."

Stacy said the county is paying for the pilot program. While providing the county's residents quicker access to emergency care, training deputies as EMTs will give them a way to work with the community that isn't adversarial.

The deputies and other participants will benefit as well, Stacy said. The ones who complete the course and earn their EMT certification will give them an increase in their salaries. About six deputies and five school resources officers are in the program now.

"The name of the game is to put the most qualified first responder next to the patients as fast as possible," Stacy said.


(c)2021 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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