U.S. Border Patrol: EMT Training
Producer: Martha Serda
Photographer: Chris Miracle
The United States Border Patrol is responsible for preventing terrorists from entering the U.S. and enforcing Immigration Laws.
Nine On Your Side was granted an all access pass to the Border Patrol's Emergency Medical Technician training. In this program agents volunteer to train for a program that gives them more skills to save lives. Since October, agents rescued 160 illegal immigrants.
Agent, Gerardo Carrasco, "Within the Department of Homeland Security, the Border patrol is one of the largest medical entities as far as having the number of people that are trained every year."
We begin here in the classroom with Border Patrol Agent and instructor Gerardo Carrasco. He teaches a class on EMT training-- assessing a patent's injuries, treating injuries immediately and determining who needs life flight immediately.
Right now we have 4,000 Border Patrol Agents in the Tucson sector, 200 are EMTs, with more being trained every few months. The Border Patrol says the need for these specially trained agents is great.
Agent Carrasco, "Well besides being out there with the environment, being exposed to the elements. A lot of times maybe they are functioning by themselves or a few other people. So they have to be able to prioritize what they're doing, be able stabilize them quickly, limited manpower, limited access, extended wait times, they're gonna be on scene with these patients for a long time."
The training is strictly voluntary. Agents have to take seven weeks of classes in addition to their regular workloads.
Agents in training, "Is my scene safe? Yes. PSI. Do I have any obvious deformities to the head or anything? Negative. Mechanism of injury? Assault. Chest injury."
Classroom demonstrations prepare agents for all scenarios.
Agent Carrasco, "We get the conventional they are dehydrated, they have been exposed to the elements. Also something as minor as bumps and bruises, blisters all the way up to motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, broken bones things like that."
This intense training goes beyond the classroom into the desert on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Agent Michael Friedrich, "We have a scenario called Med Wars that we adopted from the military."
Med Wars is meant to simulate the sweltering Sonoran Desert for agents dealing with emergency after emergency and sometimes the agents themselves become the patients.
Agent Friedrich, "Basically we have an agent who fell back out of a helicopter while fast roping operations were being conducted and both his legs are injured and he's unable to move. BORSTAR EMTs are treating the patient for both minor and life threatening injuries.
Keep in mind agents are patrolling a large desert area. Part of the challenge is find the patients that are in desperate need of medical attention and that's where EMTs come in.
"They are getting lied to as far as water, they're never gonna bring enough water, especially the amount of distance they are going to be walking. The heat, they're never gonna be prepared as they need to be."
Agent Brent Cagen, "Many of our rescues do take place during the summer months. Many times what these individuals who are crossing don't understand the terrain, rugged harsh terrain."
The next scenario is common along the Southern Arizona border.
"In this scenario the agents are going to come up, it's a simulated vehicle rollover. They are going to come up he's not going to be conscious, they are going to treat him as they see fit with tools they have with them."
"What's his pulse? Are you checking his pulse?"
Patrick Ericson, training with BORSTAR, "This particular scenario involved an agent that got sick, was not hydrated enough and became sick in the desert and they went ahead and took care of her."
"Our EMTs are trained to IV therapy, epi pens for allergic reactions and advanced airways and that is outside from what regular EMTs provide."
Here agents practice precise use of the IV for rehydration, one of the many lifesaving skills.
"We wear many hats, we do enforce the immigration laws down on the border, with that being said, we also do have a strong humanitarian role that we try to employ when it comes to giving those necessary medical resources and those needs. That is our first priority."
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Special thanks to United States Border Patrol - EMT Training for your cooperation and access to your program.