Home Opinion In-Service Training Sessions Should Focus on First Responder Hostage Situations

In-Service Training Sessions Should Focus on First Responder Hostage Situations


One of the most first things taught in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is scene safety. The bottom line is that Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics should never enter a scene that's unsafe. The reasoning goes that if an EMT or paramedic does that, they could become a casualty themselves, which means that more resources—which might not be available—would be needed to be employed. Ultimately, unsafe scenes catapult into much larger issues, thus it's important to assess scene safety and to potentially determine what resources are needed.

Because of the nature of EMS, when an EMT or Paramedic assesses the scene, often times they are absolutely correct to enter because it does not pose any real danger.  However, in recent years there has been a few instances where first responders have entered a scene that appeared to be safe, but was anything but! Only this week, firefighters responded to what they thought was a medical emergency, only to be held at gunpoint by the so-called patient. It ended with a police standoff.

A similar situation happened a few years ago when firefighters responded to what they believed was a possible cardiac emergency, but turned into a hostage situation after they arrived.

These incidents point to a growing need for training in the first-responder community. EMTs, Paramedics and Firefighters may have to learn how to handle situations where they could become the hostages for what should have been a regular-run-of-the-mill medical or trauma call. 

Collaborative Leadership

This particular issue is not only serious, but reinforces the need for law enforcement, fire and EMS to come up with a plan for handling such circumstances. It is important they are all on the same page for how to handle hostage situations that suddenly arise from an ordinary emergency.

In-Service Trainings

Departments should regularly schedule in-service training sessions to address specifically how they would respsuch an emergency. More importantly, teams on the ambulance or on the fire trucks should discuss how they would respond to such an emergency.


Ultimately, departments need to contemplate how they would handle and manage such emergencies and manage such an issue. It would work towards helping to prevent injury or loss of life.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.