By Kate Hunger
Emergency Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor and Civilian Training Officer Matt Short is leading a project to create a validated tool to identify victims of human trafficking encountered by emergency responders.
Short, the continuing education instructor for the San Antonio Fire Department, saw the need for such a tool after noticing gaps in several continuing education conferences he attended to renew his paramedic license.
“All three had some element of human tracking but nobody told me what to do about it,” he recalled.
Human trafficking includes sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and labor trafficking, Short says. Having a tool to identify victims and a protocol in place increases the ability of emergency responders to help them.
“There is a chance we can help provide services to get out of the situation they are in,” he said.
Short is collaborating with SAFD and others on the human trafficking identification tool. The team has been working on the project for about a year and has sought out the perspective and input of survivors of human trafficking.
The tool, which Short envisions as card emergency responders can carry with them for reference, identifies environmental cues that can indicate human trafficking. These include whether the person in question has possession of his or her own identification, is around controlling people or is in an area known to have a population vulnerable to trafficking. The tool includes questions to ask potential victims of human trafficking, including whether they are being threatened or need help leaving.
“What happens here in San Antonio could potentially wind up being used in all of the state of Texas,” and even nationwide, he said. “There’s a lot of potential. Whatever we put together here is going to be able to be used everywhere.”