I know down by Detroit there are medic's carrying pistols for protection and even bullet proof jackets, but does anyone else know of city's that are doing the same thing or even fire departments that have some sort of protection like a bullet proof jacket. this seems to be a growing concern out there for everyone, just wanted to see your view on this issue.

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Back during the last Los Angeles riots, FFs were shot and shot at while responding. Some packed their own shooting irons for their lives. Rather be tried by 12 then carried by 6. Of course that was chaos then. Pistol packing is not in our job description but having a police escort, if needed, is. Crazy world huh? TCSS
we have vests in our rescue trucks
This came up a while ago here on FFN but I think the discussion was deleted.

Thankfully, we don't worry about that too much in these parts. The county 911 center does a great job of gathering info and gauging potentially threatening scenes before dispatching the appropriate agencies. We are typically alerted to stand by at the station while the sheriff's deputies arrive at, and clear the scene.

I don't see the need for us to pack pistols. Vests might be nice but again unnecessary here.
I noticed that we have some bullet proof vests up in our supply loft. I think they're extras from the P.D. Don't ask me why they're not on our vehicles. I know of an ajoining town that has 2 vests on each ambulance and 3 on each fire apparatus. It's a crazy world! As far as packing heat, I say NO!
Sometimes we are sent to domestic/fight calls. Unless the scene is secure by local law enforcement we sit a safe distance down the street. My life and my brothers and sisters are more important than a saturday night drunk beating up on their family.
Firefighters or medics carrying firearms is a bad idea for a host of reasons.

1) You can't carry them openly, which means that when you need them, it will be difficult to draw them in time to get off an aimed shot.

2) Armed medics become a much bigger target for people with bad intent. I've worked projects, riots, and lots of other bad situations for over 30 years. I've never been in a situation where being armed would have made the situation better.

3) There is a big difference between defensive protection (body armor) and offensive protection (weapons). For one thing, body armor can't be taken away and used against you by someone else. A firearm can. Remember that a significant number of police officers are shot with their own weapons. We don't need to add firefighters or medics to those statistics.

4) Virtually every firefighter and medic that has been shot in the line of duty was shot from ambush. If the bad guy shoots you first, you'll just be armed but dead.

5) Wearing firearms with potentially explosive ammunition under turnout gear is a really bad idea. It adds bulk and can't be accessed, at best. At worst, the ammo may explode if exposed to heat. Wearing explosives on your body and entering a high heat area equals a really bad idea.

6) The worst part of firefighters or medics going armed is the loss of public trust in us staying "on mission". The first time a medic or firefighter shoots a civilian, the bad guys are going to assume that we're all armed, and that will be open season on us.

7) If you shoot someone during a fire or EMS response, you've just diverted yourself away from your mission, and you've violated one of our cardinal rules. That rule is "Never create additional patients".

8) If you shoot someone during an EMS response, you'll have to treat that patient or at least declare the patient dead. You won't be able to leave the scene legally until it's investigated, and anything you do to alter the scene may be legally construed as evidence tampering.

The answer to firefighter and medic protection from violent crime consists of four things. The first is a strong and administrative-backed staging policy. If there's violence involved at the scene, the cops go in first, period. That goes for shootings, stabbings, suicides, assaults, domestic violence, DOAs, and any other potential crime/violent scene. It also includes every fire and every medical call in high-crime areas. The second thing is for the firefighters to maintain situational awareness. Roll up without lights and sirens on violent crimes, ODs, etc. and keep a window down as you approach. That will let you hear angry voices, shots, or other audible cues that may not be heard with the windows up and the siren on. Pay attention - if something looks out of place or wierd, it probably is. The third thing is to have a written "Bail Out" that specifically states that it is permissible to abandon a fire scene, emergency scene, or patient to save your own life. The fourth thing is to issue body armor if you really need it. I used to work for an EMS/Rescue system that issued EMS-type body armor, Threat Level IIA. It would stop most of the handgun rounds we saw. This armor was interior layers of an EMS-type load-bearing vest that had Star of Life logos front and back, pockets for scissors, stethoscope, exam gloves, medical tape, etc, and was worn over the uniform. We wore it when responding to high-risk calls, at our own option. We issued two vests of each size (S-M-L-XL) to each unit. That kept costs down when compared to issuing personal armor to all employees.

Blindly entering shooting/stabbing/assault scenes, running lights and siren into the middle of a civil disturbance, and not staging until the police have the scene secure fall into the category of "Running into a Born Loser". We need to stay out of Born Losers that are caused by armed and violent people as well as the ones caused by fires and hazardous chemicals. Staging away from violent scenes until the police secure them will prevent the need to carry firearms and will eliminate either the need for either being tried by 12 or being carried by 6.

Ben
Ben,

That all sounds good on paper. I am in no way endorsing firearms carried by fire/ems personnel and didn't previously. 12 by 6 was my quote and you used it so I am responding. Civil disturbance is too way nice to describe the LA riots. I was there and the police were thin and the fires were thick. Not responding to the many fires was not an option. Those dedicated fire fighters did what they needed to serve and survive. Was it legal, no, was it right, well, they survived. We all hope that is never repeated. Lessons learned from LA and other rioting cities helped us all be better prepared using law enforcement and defense tactics as you described. Thank you for your post, keep it up. I'm keeping it short and concise for the effect. TCSS
Billy,

The term that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Domestic Preparedness uses is "Civil Disturbance". I've worked a few of them myself, although admittedly not on the scale of the L.A. riots - either the 1967 Watts version or the Rodney King verdict version.

Why isn't not responding to fires during a riot without police protection not an option?
Is there some rule that firefighters must commit suicide just to extinguish fires that primarily involve property? Is there something that makes it OK for firefighters to break the law, just because a riot is going on?

In one of the riots I worked (unnamed southeastern city much earlier in my career) the Mayor, the Police Chief, and the Fire Chief called a press conference, set up a large-scale city map, drew a red line around a 40 or 50-block area, and told the people within that area that they had no access to city services includeing fire, police, or EMS until further notice. In other words, there was no expectation that the firefighters and medics had to engage in suicidal behavior.

Why should police failures - or failures to get National Guard help in a timely manner - be used as an excuse to let firefighters go armed, or to engage in suicidal behavior? A fire that you have to shoot your way in to - or out of - is a Born Loser by definition.

The lesson learned from the King verdict riots was that when you have an internationally-followed, emotionally-charged court case, that the police department needs to be ramped up for a variety of possible consequences. The LAPD did not do that. The other lesson learned was that a LAFD firefighter was shot while driving a ladder truck through the disturbance area without police protection, and that he was lucky to survive. The fact that LAFD firefighters survived some of the situations into which they went was sheer luck. We're not supposed to depend on luck for personal survival. See my blog on "Does your apparatus have a good luck compartment?" for more on this.

That's why we see "TCSS" as a closing comment on so many posts here on FFN, instead of "Good Luck".

Ben
Stupid...Stupid...Stupid....Thats why I'm a found believer in the use of the blue(PD)/Brown(SO) canaries. They are firearm certified. They are trained to deal with violent situations... Let them take care of it... Than you can safely do your job.
1. Firefighters are the good guys. Repeat... we are the good guys.
2. Good guys don't carry guns.
3. Live by the sword, and you will die from the sword.
4. There were countless cases of local citizens coming to the aid of firefighters and medics.

Why? Because we are the good guys. : )

"Kill them with kindness, not firearms..."

TCSS, Mike

Oh yea, after the LA Riots, every one of our engines have been issued four flack vests for each engine. Lots of things can produce unrest and civil violence. For those in larger metropolitan cities, this may become a reality before you would like it to happen... Even rural areas need to be vigilant with soft targets such as elementary schools and churches being considered targets by terrorists.

We have a different reality living within the 100-mile radius of Los Angeles, CA... but we DON"T carry guns. We let law enforcement folks, even park rangers provide our necessary firepower when needed...


"Engine 18, respond to a reported suicidal subject with a gun at... Copy dispatch, please respond law enforcement and make contact with State Parks Rangers... The officers found the subject, very dead but cleared the way prior to my allowing my personnel to enter. We all went home, well all of us but one...
Wow! I see alot of you are not for guns. Does any one have a CCW? Why couldn't you carry open. Michigan is an open carry state. I know many of the states in the south are also. Even carry conceled, why wouldn't you be able to aim and shoot. You need to practice. You can't buy a gun and hope it works. If there is someone with "bad intent" they don't care who they shoot. Having a big red fire truck with a bunch of lights on it is a great target. Plus they know you are unlikely to shoot back. Wearing a weapon under turnout gear has never been an issue. Ask the Public Safety Officers (police,fire,ems). Shooting someone- gives you something to do. and puts you into overtime. Just kidding. Remember the first rule, your safety. Cops don't carry any offensive protection. Everything is for defessive. Oh, and just because you are shot, doesn't mean you are dead. If someone has the chance to shoot you, means police isn't there. Who is going to deffend you while you find your white hat and call for P.D.? I have worked in Detroit as EMS. I wished I wish I had a gun at the time. I have gone to calls for a simple DIB and had to disarm PTs. I'm not sure where everyone is from. Here we don't have police everytime you need them. And I believe it is the dispatcher 101 school that says leave out important information and make sure most medicals are "unknown medical". Any firefighter that is worth something is usually volunteer/paid on call. I carry a gun everyday. I don't plan my day to leave my gun at home 'cause I might have a call. You won't have police everytime you go somewhere. And not every call has a flag to have PD show up before you. There are more people out there with guns than those without. If you carry a gun you need to train with it. Having a vest doesn't make you bullet proof. If that was the case, cops woundn't need them and military personel wouldn't be dying. I always say, an armed community is a safe community. Just my though everyone. I'm sure someone will disagree with me. The times are coming where fire/ems are going to be unresticted when it comes to carrying a gun. I just know most departments won't allow it because of liability. But, since 2001 there have only been a handful of unjustified shooting where the bad guy had a CCW.
Amen, Mike.

It is one of my personal fears in which far more greater than the fire itself. For 10 years of volunteer service I thank God I never experience being threatened or pointed with a knife, a jungle bolo, or a gun. These things happen when you respond to a heavily populated squatter or depressed areas made of light materials. When fires goes of control like a urban version wildland fires. In which a panic mode residents insist of training our hoses to their house which a bit farther away from the fully involve area itself. SWAT teams and security forces are not quick enough to provide backup or out numbered. Some of my friends did experience and got injured and shot at. So some FF's have a personal gun hidden their turnouts. But we all indoctrinated, as good guys. Never Never ever use it. Unless as a last resort - warning shot. Then dropped the nozzle and hoseline, then pull out and (sadly) let it burn. Reposition or comeback until the area is secured.

The ironic part is, when fire is under control and cooler heads prevail. Residents in which of most them was saved from the ravages of fires, and also who appreciate our effort. Gave us food, drinks, and Thanking us. For me that is the best part in the operation.

But I did experienced having a tug of war of hoses with residents or they try to snatch my nozzle. Good thing recently, its good thing the police, swat teams and traffic enforcers are trying to catch up with us and just in time of protection.

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