PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An increase in violent attacks in the Portland Metro area against paramedics and EMT’s has sparked AMR to start training their employees in self-defense.

This training comes shortly after paramedics were assaulted during a medical response on August 12.

“We didn’t get into this into this profession for people to take out their aggression on us — we got in this industry to help people in crisis,” said EMT training officer Tim Case.

Case said he’s seen an increase of local assaults towards emergency responders over the past few years.

“To have the things where we’re the helpers, to then being the ones needing the help,” said Case. “It’s disheartening for sure.” 

Paramedics have been attacked with pipes, stabbed with knives and have taken pepper spray to the face.

“Those are the most obvious glaring cases for why there’s a need for this,” he said.

“More and more [paramedics] are dealing with people with mental illness, drug or alcohol affected, are homeless or houseless and have all these big crises going on in their lives,” said fellow trainer Jeff Birrer. “And they are, for some reason, choosing to lash out on the people who come to help them.”

AMR employees from Clark, Clackamas and Multnomah counties are now attending their first defensive tactics class.

The goal is not to teach these paramedics how to fight — but instead teaching how to deescalate, evasion tactics and how to keep their distance.

“Distance is safety when you’re dealing with an explosive situation,” Birrer said.

Paramedics work in an uncontrolled environment — never knowing what they’re walking into.

“Just know that when we’re there — we’re there to support you and help you in your time of crisis,”​ Case said.

Case said they’re here to serve the public and to keep you healthy and safe.