Tactical Medicine

“The delivery of medical services for law enforcement special operations”

The tactical incident response environment presents unique challenges to law enforcement personnel and for the personnel providing emergency medical care and support services in that environment. Tactical medical care providers must have a clear understanding of and consideration for law enforcement response, tactics, and the mission-specific objectives of a tactical operation when planning for and providing medical support.

Approved tactical medicine training programs, which provide initial and refresher or update tactical medicine training to personnel, shall adhere to the minimum training guidelines and standards outlined in the POST/EMSA Tactical Medicine Operational Programs and Standardized Training Recommendations (pdf) document.

Primary Goal

The primary goal of tactical medicine is to support and assist a tactical team in accomplishing its mission during a deployment or response to a critical incident. Significant progress, growth, and advancement in tactical medicine training and education have occurred over the last two decades and this has resulted in the development of specific training programs for tactical medicine providers and operators.

Penal Code Section 13514.1

Penal Code Section 13514.1 directed the Commission to develop and disseminate guidelines and standardized training recommendations for law enforcement officers, supervisors, and administrators, who are assigned to perform, supervise, or manage Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). Those guidelines were released in 2005.

POST, in collaboration with the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) has completed development of guidelines to provide baseline development and implementation of operational programs developed as required and described in the SWAT Guidelines that were approved in 2005. The new Tactical medicine guidelines are also meant to serve as a companion document to the POST Operational Guidelines for SWAT (2005). The SWAT guidelines describe the critical role that tactical medicine planning and threat assessment plays in the overall contingency planning as part of the SWAT operational plan.

POST/EMSA Tactical Medicine Operational Programs and Standardized Training Recommendations (2010) Manual

The goal of the POST/EMSA Tactical Medicine Operational Programs and Standardized Training Recommendations (pdf) manual is to describe minimum core competencies and define the written and skills testing necessary to achieve the standards prescribed by POST and EMSA. The California Medical Services Authority (EMSA) is responsible for setting the statewide medical standards utilized by POST. As such, the new guidelines are intended to serve as a template for the development of operational programs that are developed by any public safety agency in California, and to serve as the minimum standard for initial tactical medicine training.

Needs Assessment

The public safety agency developing a tactical medicine operational program should conduct a thorough needs assessment to determine the level of emergency care required by the SWAT team to support the mission and operations. The operational program must consider the need for medical oversight and coordination with the local EMS agency, medical direction, use of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), paramedics and other advanced life support personnel, and minimum training and equipment standards. The agency should also develop policies and procedures for medical support during tactical operations.