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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Even better EMS training to deliver good medicine in bad places

Author: Denis FitzGerald, MD, Division Director, ASPR Tactical Programs, and Greg Smith, Branch Chief, ASPR Tactical Medical Program
Published Date: 5/20/2014 10:49:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Exercises & Trainings;

Authors: Denis FitzGerald, MD, Division Director, ASPR Tactical Programs, and Greg Smith, Branch Chief, ASPR Tactical Medical Program

Day after day in neighborhoods around the country, law enforcement officers conduct counter narcotics counter terrorism operations to keep our communities safe.

For 25 years federal agencies have offered rock solid training to the EMTs, paramedics, and medical directors who provide medical support in the field for those officers. The training program, called Counter Narcotics & Terrorism Operational Medical Support (better known by its acronym CONTOMS) has been hailed among the best of its kind. And that training just got even better. 

Screenshot of CONTOMS video

Although we continually update the program to keep pace with the latest in medicine, this program make-over is the most comprehensive in ten years. We scrubbed every hour of the course to incorporate the latest medical advances as well as tried-and-true medical practices and to present the material in interactive ways that work well for our students.

The course maintains all the signature elements that have stood the test of time, including the approach to medicine across the barricade, the framework for officer rescue, the paradigm used for medical care in the field, and the medical threat assessment process.

The flagship course, EMT-Tactical, still packs 56 hours of intensive training into five days. Students still run through comprehensive classroom training, practice skills in the laboratory, and test their knowledge and skills in a full-scale drill in the field.

We tackled the EMT-T course first with a clear downstream effect on other classes in the cohesive CONTOMS suite (Medical Director, EMT-T Advanced Provider, Tactical First Responder, and Tactical First Aid). All five newly polished courses flow more smoothly between topics than they did in the past.

The program has come a long way since it was born as a simple good idea sketched on a napkin in an eating and drinking establishment. The idea was to deliver “good medicine in bad places” and that idea found its first home in the Casualty Care Research Center at the DoD Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Over the years, CONTOMS has been copied, repackaged and renamed by others but that’s ok; imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Today CONTOMS continues as a public-private partnership between the HHS, the U.S. Park Police and the Chesapeake Health Education Program. We’ve trained more than 7,000 providers from federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and military agencies to deliver high quality medical support for special response teams, like SWAT teams.

CONTOMS “2.0” rolls out in June with the EMT-Tactical course. Students must be sponsored by a bona fide special response team and they need to be trained already at the EMT-B level or higher. If you know someone who is, spread the word. If you are one, learn more about the courses and consider registering. If you’ve been through CONTOMS training, let us know what you think by commenting on this blog.




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