Firefighters Get Gear to Protect Them From Shootings

FIRST RESPONDERS!  We have your back (and front)!

In an active shooter situation, first responders need to get to victims as fast as possible to start medical treatment and ultimately save their lives. A person can bleed to death in a matter of 90 seconds.

Not only do they need to get to victims as fast as possible, but they need the proper equipment to safely enter an active shooter zone.

The White River Township Fire Department received six bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets, along with other accessories, through a grant from a foundation.

Without equipment, firefighters and paramedics had to wait for the scene to be secured by police before they can enter and begin assessing victims, White River Fire Chief Jeremy Pell said. Now, with the use of the vest and helmets, firefighters and paramedics can enter a scene quicker and start life-saving efforts.

Police officers are always the first to enter an active shooter scene, Pell said. Once they can isolate the shooter, or shooters, to an area, firefighters and paramedics can then enter, even if the shooter is not in custody yet.

“If there was a shooting, traditionally the ambulance and the firefighters said ‘We’ll wait. (Police) tell us when the scene is safe. We can’t do that anymore,” Pell said.

White River Township Fire Department works with Center Grove Schools, local police and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to practice active shooter drills. Before the grant, he said, the fire department didn’t have the proper equipment to practice shooter drills the way they can now. The grant for this purchase came through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

“We have been reading about the Aurora shooting, and the Columbine shooting and Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings and the Las Vegas shootings and asking ourselves, how would we respond in Johnson County, in White River township?” Pell said. “So we knew we had to put some policies into place, we had to change our training and we had to change how we responded to these incidents. We have been doing this for quite awhile, we’ve been preparing for this for quite awhile. But it’s the Firehouse Sub grant that provided us with the proper safety equipment to be able to actually respond the way we need to.”

Along with vests and helmets, the fire department also received tourniquets to put in pouches on their vests so a first responder can treat themselves if they are injured.

No classroom or scenario can fully prepare first responders for a real active shooter situation, Pell said, but they try to recreate the scenarios as best they can by using simulated gunfire and audio recordings.

“There is no one single fix,” Pell said. “We’re going to change how we design our schools, we’re going to teach the people in those schools how to care for people who get hurt and we’re going to change how we respond to those emergencies so that we don’t allow this to happen in our community.”


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