Close Calls: Firefighters Become Targets of Gunshot Violence

In this two-part column, we look at the differences between when we know at the time of the run that there is the potential for violence and when we do not know. We looked at the working vehicle fire in Maplewood, MO, where Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan...


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Responding fire and EMS personnel must pay attention, listen to the radio and stage far away. It is also critical that the fire and related communication centers, dispatchers and telecommunicators share all information with us – as well as with the police – so there is no breakdown in the facts of what is going on at the scene. Unfortunately, there are cases when the police know “this and that” about an incident and fire-EMS personnel do not – and all are going on the same run. As critical as fire and EMS training is, so is training for fire, EMS and police communication personnel to ensure they understand just how important their role is.

Our intent is to help people and we do that when we have the right tools, training, equipment and conditions. When we have any information that a scene may be a “bad” one, the police – and no one else – tell us when it is safe. Our instinct that “the scene may be safe” is nonsense. Any suspected violent scene is not safe or secure for us until the police say it is.

There are times in your service as a firefighter or EMT when you may have to place yourself in harm’s way with extreme personal danger and risk to save a life; that is accepted and understandable. However, when we have information that a scene is violent, that would not be one of those cases when we are expected to take any risk.