The importance of medical training for Close Protection Officers – Protective and proactive first response medical care for clients.
When providing protective services to clients, the primary objective is protecting that client in every environment and situation. It stands to reason then that providing medical attention when the need arises is as important as any response to physical threat from violent or other criminal behaviour.
In the case of a medical emergency, the first responder is most often the one who makes the difference between life and death. The need for a suitably trained professional who can respond to an immediate life-threatening medical situation with basic first aid or disaster management is critical. Experience plays a crucial role in this as it takes practice to recognise when and what action needs to be taken.
A frequent challenge is that that clients who make use of close protection typically travel frequently. As a result, they may find themselves in locations where the available medical services are sub-standard or where such services are unable to reach them at all within an acceptable time, due to the remoteness of the location, the environment, local traffic or numerous other scenarios.
Whether dealing with a twisted ankle that occurs on a mountain whilst skiing, insect stings or bites that happen on a safari, a cardiac arrest that happens during a flight, serious injuries caused by extreme weather, violent incidents or accidents, the CPO will likely be first on the scene and should at least be trained and equipped to act as a first responder. Arguably the most critical aspect of successful medical intervention is the response time – the quicker the medical response, the higher the chances of your client’s survival.
Peace of mind
During our years of experience in assembling Close Protection teams that includes a medic, we almost always get thanked by the clients for doing so. This is because the ratio of medical incidents that we respond to is around five times greater than the number of security incidents.
In our 20 years of operating, NSA have experienced all of the above, when only the presence of our medically trained staff has saved clients lives as well as those of their staff. We are therefore in no doubt whatsoever of the value of a medical presence on any operation of project.
This brings to mind an unforgettable incident:
During December of 2002, NSA Global was contracted to provide security services to a global celebrity who was in South Africa fulfilling a wish to distribute Christmas presents and school necessities to rural schoolchildren. In the Transkei one afternoon, most of the gifts had been handed out and most of the kids had gone home, but there were still a few kids and adults left in the huge marquee tent that had been set up as usual along with all of the temporary fencing and queuing lines, as well as the client’s staff.
Someone alerted us all to the huge black clouds approaching as it looked as if a huge storm was coming. And coming fast! As the storm hit, the wind picked up very quickly and became incredibly strong (we believe it was a tornado) and we saw the tent starting to come loose, the team ran the client back to the car and put her inside.
Almost instantly we saw the tent flying around and parts of the fencing lifting and swirling around at head height, together with boxes, tables, chairs etc. Some of our protection team were trying to keep hold of the fence as it flew around and a lot of the people (clients included) took cover under the trucks, many dragged there by our team.
There were a number of injuries, but most were cuts and bruises. We had a medical team comprising Advanced Life Support paramedics in a separate vehicle as a part of our team and they immediately set up a triage area and started attending to the injured people, with the help of some of our other team members.
One of the 3m tent-poles that was uprooted by the tornado, swung around and smacked one of the client’s private jet pilots across the back and ribs area. He couldn’t fly home for Christmas, so our client put him up in Joburg while he recuperated, then later moved him to her local educational institution as Ops Director. The injury ended his flying career as he could no longer pass the pilots’ annual medical assessment, but he became an excellent administrator and we worked many more years alongside him as he forged his new career.
There were a couple of other people that needed to be hospitalized and we took them to the nearest hospital but that was a fair distance away and in a remote, rural area.
We have never forgotten the lesson we learned that day: no executive protection team is complete without trained, competent medics as part of it. This is but one of numerous such examples that we can cite.
Medical response training for Close Protection Officers
Whilst certain clients do have dedicated paramedics or even doctors as a part of their protection teams, many rely on “cross trained” CPO’s whose primary responsibility is protection, but who also have a high level of medical training and carry the relevant equipment.
All NSA protection staff are trained to a minimum “Level 3” and renew this training annually, in addition, a number of our staff have completed more advanced training in the levels described above.
Such training will always include as a minimum, “Level 3 First Aid”, this level of medical training is valid for a period of two years and needs to be renewed with regular refresher courses, the most important aspects of this training will always include:
The use of an Automated external defibrillator (AED)
*Basic training likely to address the most common threats and traumatic injuries.
The difference between the minimal training and advance medical training
Advance training includes:
- Level 5, Basic Life Support. This medic can provide basic care including;
- CPR, Adult & Infant
- Wound care, Splinting
- Administer Oxygen
- Administer Oral dextrose
- Level 6, Intermediate Life Support. This medic can provide the following care;
- Provide the aforementioned care,
- ECG (heart machine), Defibrillation above 12 years,
- Chest decompression with needle. (inserting needle into chest cavity, to drain air)
- Site IV lines and fluid therapy,
- Administer IV dextrose and certain inhalants for asthmatics.
- Level 7/8, B-Tec: Advanced Life Support Paramedics. Can provide the following;
- Provide the aforementioned procedures.
- Cardiac Pacing & Cardio-version.
- Approximately 30 drugs on the protocol including; Adrenaline, Valium and Morphine.
- Advanced airway management such as; surgical cricothyrotomy (cutting the throat open) and Intubations (inserting tube into airway)
These are the only three pre-hospital levels of care that are recognized by the HPCSA.
Capabilities of Close Protection Officers with advanced medical training
The term “Paramedic” is a very general term that refers to:
“A specialist healthcare professional who responds to emergency calls for medical help outside of a hospital. Paramedics mainly work as part of the emergency medical services (EMS), most often in ambulances. The scope of practice of a paramedic varies among countries, but generally includes autonomous decision making around the emergency care of patients”
Basic Live Support Practitioner
Intermediate life support Practitioner
Advance life support Practitioner
Advance medical training will enable CPO personnel to immediately deploy advance medical protocols, equipment and scheduled medication similar to that of a Paramedic thus increasing the life expectancy of a patient.
Medical response equipment – The importance of a well-equipped medical kit to the CPO’s output in a medical emergency
A well-equipped and readily accessible medical kit that corresponds with the practitioner’s skillset is of vital importance for immediate application. Contrary to popular belief, the improvisation of basic medical equipment is not viable, due to the ineffectiveness as well as the time it takes to improvise this equipment when minutes count.
Non-negotiable items that are ‘must haves’ in any medical kit will include:
- Personal Protection equipment (PPE)
- Combat application Tourniquet
- Compression Bandages to stop haemorrhage
- Chest Seal occlusive dressing for penetrating chest injuries
- Equipment to guard against Hypothermia
- Equipment to treat basic burn injuries
NSA has for over 5 years, provided dedicated medical staff and equipment to a number of our valued clients, on both long-term and ad-hoc projects as required internationally.
We now proudly offer, the largest private and event medical service in South Africa offering a professional service and an operational proven track record. NSA Global Security Consultants has the ability and capacity to permanently deploy paramedics to clients or to include a paramedic in protection teams assigned to temporary assignments into high-risk or remote locations.
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