EMS Captain Craig Prusansky
Photo credit: Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue
Late last summer, a Palm Beach County EMS captain found himself in an unusual situation for most first responders -- under gunfire.
Craig Prusansky helped shield a victim from a barrage of bullets during a standoff on Aug. 6, 2009 and has been selected by Firehouse Magazine as a recipient of the 2009 Heroism & Community Service Awards.
"It's an extremely prestigious honor because it's not just confined to the department; everyone sees it," he told Firehouse.com. "It's a pretty important award."
Palm Beach County Rescue 74 responded to a domestic violence call shortly after 11 p.m. with Captain Aaron Pribyl, Driver/Operator Scott Ross and Firefighter/Paramedic Shawn McCoy aboard.
They staged several blocks from the scene as part of their standard operating procedures. While monitoring the sheriff's office radio channel, they heard deputies relay that there was a woman lying in the front yard of the residence with a male suspect barricaded inside.
Because of the circumstances, Prusansky -- the acting EMS supervisor for that night -- was requested at the scene.
The incident occurred in the rural community of Lake Harbor, which Prusansky said made it an unusual call.
"In this community, we usually don't get anything. It's very small," he said. "That's what really took us off guard."
The deputies were able to carry the woman up the road and advised fire-rescue that the scene was secured. Prusansky and the crew made their way to the woman to begin treatment and were then told by deputies that the suspect was still armed and inside the house.
As they prepared to transport the patient back to the rescue truck, gunfire between the man and the deputies erupted.
"We heard the deputies yelling to the gunman to put the gun down all hell basically broke lose," he said, adding that while it only lasted about 20 seconds, everything moved in slow motion.
They took cover behind the deputies' vehicles until the gunfire ended. Prusansky told the crew members to seek shelter inside the truck. He then radioed that he was uninjured and safe with the woman.
After the gunfire stopped, the deputies reported that the suspect was running away from the house, in the direction of the crew. While the crew was inside of the vehicle, he remained shielded by the deputies' vehicles with the woman.
Once deputies were able to get the man back inside the house, Prusansky -- protected by deputies holding bulletproof shields -- carried the woman to Rescue 74, where the crew resumed treatment on her and transport her to the hospital.
The suspect eventually surrendered peacefully and no one was seriously injured in the incident.
"Fortunately it ended peacefully," he said.
Prusansky hasn't been in contact with the victim since the incident but said that he is aware that she's OK.
What made the incident even more unusual for him is that he had met the couple before. He had been working on 911 problems in the area for the past two years. Some residences that would call in an emergency were coming up with the wrong location.
He had discovered the problem he was investigating at that particular residence and had talked to the couple for several hours.
"That actually made it worse because I knew the people involved."
Prusansky said that while facing gunfire isn't part of the daily job, first responders must do everything they can to be prepared for it.
"We've been involved in many shootings, but it's always the aftermath, and not an active shooter," he said. "Never let your guard down. Even with all of the training we go through, there is no amount that can prepare you for something like that. You do the best you can do and hopefully everything works out right."