Home News Stories 2009 January FBI Medics

FBI Medics

FBI Medics
Special Agents with Special Skills

01/28/09

A team of FBI medics transport a Bureau employee in need of medical attention during an operational deployment.

A team of FBI medics transport a Bureau employee
in need of medical attention during
an operational deployment.

Our investigators and critical response professionals often find themselves in harm’s way—working in a war zone, serving warrants on dangerous criminals, hunting down terrorists, responding to the potential use of a chemical or biological agent.

For our employees, the possibility of injury or illness is real—and many times medical facilities are nowhere nearby or don’t provide the kind of security or care we need.

That’s why we’ve created our own cadre of highly trained FBI medics.

A bit of history. Our Emergency Medical Support Program, headed by Dr. William Fabbri, was launched in the wake of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa. Explains Dr. Fabbri, “After that investigation, we realized that our teams of people working in austere medical environments were at risk. And because operational deployments include a limited number of personnel—situations where even one minor injury or temporary illness could impact our mission—we began including FBI medics on our deployment teams.”

Today, our medics support crisis response efforts, special operations, and terrorism and high-risk investigations here and abroad. Their patients are not just FBI employees—for example, our medics will tend to subjects and civilians involved in a hostage situation where it’s not safe for local emergency workers to enter the scene.

And when needed, our medics are supported by Bureau doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and contractors.

An FBI ambulance on standby at the scene of the January 15 crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River. Our medics were on hand, ready to assist as Bureau divers joined New Jersey State Police and New York Police Department divers to recover pieces of the plane.

An FBI ambulance on standby at the scene of the
January 15 crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 into
the Hudson River. Our medics were on hand, ready to
assist as Bureau divers joined New Jersey State Police
and New York Police Department divers
to recover pieces of the plane.

We have over 250 special agent medics around the country who are fully qualified emergency medical specialists—EMTs, advanced paramedics, emergency physicians, etc. Most come to us with years of emergency medicine experience, and they continue to train to keep their skills sharp. They are embedded within certain field SWAT teams, our Hazardous Materials Response Unit in the FBI Laboratory, and our Hostage Rescue Team in our Critical Incident Response Group.

Why are our medics agents? So that in between answering sick calls and checking the safety of local water supplies, they can also conduct interviews and recover evidence.

Being an FBI medic can be challenging. Dr. Fabbri recalls when water testing by a Bureau paramedic detected sewage contamination, preventing illness during an overseas investigation. He also remembers the work of our medics during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics deployment of 1,600 FBI personnel, in close quarters with some 1.5 million visitors, at the height of flu season!

But it’s also a memorable job:

  • A medic from Los Angeles, a physician trained in emergency medicine, recalls “serving as an intermediary between U.S. authorities and Chinese doctors after the stabbing of an American couple at last summer’s Beijing Olympics.”
  • One of our New York medics tells of a deployment to a West African nation wracked by civil war that left the country’s infrastructure in shambles—no power, sewer, or running water outside of the U.S. Embassy. “I assisted our Evidence Response Team while promoting the health and safety of the rest of the team by mitigating animal, food and water, mechanical, and physical hazards,” he says.
  • Another medic from Columbia remembers “taking care of three FBI personnel working at the G-8 Summit who developed kidney stones almost at the same time!”
  • And a medic in our Washington Field Office says his most memorable contribution occurred after 9/11—“the scenes at Ground Zero and the New York City morgue and doing my best to support our personnel in the midst of a chaotic situation.”

Says Dr. Fabbri, “FBI medics protect our people so they can continue protecting the American public.”