1. #1
    FGFD43
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Fire Departments assisting Law Enforcement

    The school shooting incidents got me thinking about stand-off type incidents and other situations where Law Enforcement and Fire or EMS agencies respond to the same scene and I'd like to hear opinions concerning how far Fire and EMS should go or what they should or shouldn't do to assist Law agencies. Some unusual examples I have heard of are using apparatus as barracades or allowing Law Officers to use turnout gear as a disguise. There are also the more common situations that arise when responding to assault or domestic calls with EMS or Rescue units. I would also like to hear how public relations would have a bearing on this. I know I have thrown out a lot here but I thought this topic could stand some scrutiny.

    ------------------
    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA
    kevinsink@northstate.net

  2. #2
    Mike DeVuono
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Well in the cities...the PD is always going to need the FD to assist with rooftop search. No getting around that. Unless the PD starts carrying 35' ladders on the side of the wagon


    ------------------
    Mike DeVuono

    "There are few atheists inside a burning building."

    These are my opinions and not those of my department.

  3. #3
    mark440
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation

    Using apparatus as a shield is one thing. Turnouts as a disguise? NO WAY!!!! The public like firefighters. I like being liked. I don't like it when someone wants to shoot at me. This will just give the public a false sense. If they see a firefighter throw down thier father, mother, brother, sister and arrest them and/or shoot them, people will not like the FD. We will be hated just like the PD. I don't want that!

    Stay safe,

    Mark

    ------------------
    If in doubt - Call us out

  4. #4
    LtStick
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Your right this particular subject could use some scrutiny.
    The department has been lucky we have had very few dealings on the same incident outside the normal ones such as; MVA, Fires that we needed a fire marshal and incidents during our annual carnival. Every one should give this one some thought. Were usually the first ones there when things turn to "poop" so to speak. I don't believe its a good idea to let law enforcement use Fire or Ems uniforms or TOG as a disguise because, this may lead the to criminals deciding that the individuals in the uniforms or TOG are law Enforcement personnel. This would lead to Fire and Ems personnel being viewed as a threat to them which in turn may put them on business end of a gun or other weapon. I'm not a big fan of the idea of using Fire trucks as Barricades or shields for Law enforcement personnel. I can see there point why they would use them. I know if I had the choice between hiding behind a police car or a Fire truck I'd pick the Fire Truck and also its kind of hard to shield a group of 7 or 8 officers with a patrol car. The vehicle's size offers the ability to advance a group rather than a couple of individuals. I have also heard of instances of where the Fire Department was called into a scene to provide lighting at night during a standoff. I have also know of a incident where a Fire Station was used as a Command post during a standoff.
    I don't know what kind of bearing public relations would have. It would all depend on the incident and how much a Department was involved and what kind of role they played.
    I wouldn't want a person wether there Law Enforcement or a Fire Fighter bringing a suspect out of residents wearing TOG. I think that would send the wrong kind of message out. Especially if it was on the six o'clock news. People might think that the Fire Department is involved with law enforcement.
    This is just my thoughts on the subject though. Its definitely something to think long and hard about.

  5. #5
    whampus
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    but we have to remember we want them there to help us when we need it.i'm in a small community and fire and police work very well together.

  6. #6
    WTFDFF10
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    We work closely with our Police Dept. especially during this incident:
    http://www.wtfd.net/images/standoff.jpg (We provided our fire boat to these police officers)

    The thing that bothered me was the caption that accompanied this picture in the local paper was: "The man was captured by a Washington Twp. Fire & Rescue Crew"

    Yikes! The day we start carrying shotguns is the day I quit!



    [This message has been edited by WTFDFF10 (edited 03-08-2001).]

  7. #7
    ggtruckie
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Ok we should help them only if they dont block the hydrant, or pull up in front of the building. We also have cops that think they dont need turnout gear to go in a house fire. We had a room and contents one night as we are going in a cop is coming out trying to tell us the fire is in the kitchen., of course he could hardly talk because of the smoke. So we should help them as long as they help us by staying out the way

  8. #8
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I was kind of impressed. We had an intelligent exchange going on here, until ggtruckie had to add his ridiculous post.

    Anyway, I am a LEO and a vol. FF. I have been involved in tactical situations from both sides. I do not believe that the FD should be involved actively in any active PD tactical operation. Most of the reasons for this have to do with FF safety.

    First, the PD has training and equipment to deal with these situations. While some FD's may have teams like SWAT medics, most FD's have training only to pick up the pieces when it is all over. A handgun round is travelling between 900 and 1100 fps and can travel over 100 yards with enough velocity to kill. Rifle rounds can travel three times that distance and kill. Nomex is good, but not that good. If the PD needs to use the apparatus to make a rescue of a barricaded subject, give them the keys. They are the experts here.

    Second, people hate cops but generally love fire fighters. They look at FF differently because they are there to help them and they actually get there in a reasonable amount of time when they call. I know FF that work in the ghetto that will never leave the firehouse without wearing something that clearly identifies them as a FF, so they will have no problems. If we start to blur the lines in IDing PD and FF, FF are going to start to get hurt. That's is why I believe that FF/EMS uniforms should be so radically different from the PD that there can be no mistake.

    Third, you're not cops. Imagine how much you need to know to do your job. That's how much a cop needs to know. They are two totally different disciplines. People complain that cops do not know what the FD does, well, my bet is most FF don't have a clue what a street cop has to go through during an active tactical situation.

    I have been sitting in a vol. FD station when a report of a fight at the bar across the street came over the scanner. The place emties out so these guys can go to get involved in the action. No good will come from this. The PD gets paid to do PD stuff. (BTW, this wasn't Mayberry with one cop. They were more than capable of handling the situation.

    The solution here is to deal with the situation before it occurs. Sit down with the PD and talk about these types of incidents and find out how the FD can assist. It's easier for the PD IC to know what you can bring to the table beforehand, than to try to guess when the job is going down.

    Remember, the objective is to go home at the end of the job.

  9. #9
    Lansingfire4
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    If we start letting the cops disguise themselves as FF's, then the nest time we go into a potentially hostile situation the bad guy's think we're cops and start shooting. We have a pretty good relationship with the public (even the bad guy's) let's not let the cops screw that up for us.


  10. #10
    LtStick
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    George has the right idea we don't need people shooting at us thinking were cops in disguise. I agree if they need a truck to assist in tactical situation to help preform a rescue or use as a barricade that's fine let them have the keys. Lets face it they generally don't have trucks that big. Also if something happens to the truck then there the ones that are responsible for the vehicle. We should be very careful what role we play during a tactical situation. We definetly want to keep the line setting us apart from the PD as clear as possible for our own safety

  11. #11
    Nick SBFD 6
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Angry

    GGTRUCKIE, what is wrong? George is right, i and on top of that respect is a two way street there tough guy.
    Well anyway,
    It seems the smaller town you are the better your community services get along. In our town we run only 1 patrolman most of the time, so we are all working together all the time, we scratch their backs, they scratch ours, we all leave our egos at our respective stations. It works well.

    To get back to the subject, I am totaly for assisting the pd at situations, until it puts our saftey in danger. You wouldn't send a cop into a house with no hose, we shouldn't be at shootings if we don't have guns. Use our apparatus if you must as long as my FF ***** isn't in it!


    Have fun! -nick

  12. #12
    Captain Gonzo
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Lightbulb

    Part of the overall mission statements both law enforcement agencies and the fire service is to protect and serve our communities.

    Having a good working relationship with the police is common sense. In my community, we work well together. They have used our services for forcible entry for doing well being checks, we have used their services for traffic control at incidents. We have set up ladders for them to gain access to rooftops to do crime scene investigations.

    At bomb scares, we work with the PD. We stay a block away from the area in question, staging the trucks as a form of traffic control. We have worked together in evacuating neighborhoods in a haz mat situation. I agree with George Wendt when it comes to tactical ops for the police...we will be there, but to "pick up the pieces".

    While the FD management is talking to PD management about how we can assist them, we should tell the PD how they can assist us.

    ------------------
    Firefighters: rising under adverse conditions to accept the challenge!
    Captain Gonzo

  13. #13
    Fyresq50
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I just do not get the question at all. We are all on the same team here. In my community, Fire, EMS, and Police are a very tightly knit group, in fact, there are quite a few of us that do two out of the three. What is even more amazing is that our EMS is a private. Remember, people, it is not the job you do, but how you do your job. The collective "Us" will be much more successful than 3 separate little branches working independently of each other. At some point in time, regardless of who you are, whether law enforcement, fire department, or EMS, you will be viewed as the bad guy. It is just a simple fact of life in our line of work. Overall, however, all 3 divisions are viewed as the good guys more often than not. Personally, I do not really care if some crack dealer thinks I am a good guy or not based on whether I am there as a firefighter helping my friends on the police force, or EMS. And furthermore, I want to be able to count on that Cop being there covering my back when something threatens to be hitting the fan. If I lose the trust of the drug dealers and hostage takers, then I guess that is a risk that I have to take.

    Nobody ever told me this job was going to be easy.

    Take care,
    Jim

  14. #14
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    OK Jim, take a breath, go back and read all the posts again and then look at yours.

    Nobody here ever said that we should offer assistance to the police. However, there are times that FF would unnecessarily place themselves in danger by entering into a tactical situation without the proper equipment and training. That is not the job of the FF. This is about more than being viewed as a "bad guy". It's about personal safety.

    If, however, you believe that the FD should go charging into any situation regardless of the risk, you are a very dangerous individual who is going to get someone hurt or killed someday.

    Nobody ever said the job is going to be easy. But you have to approach it with a little smarts.

  15. #15
    LtStick
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    George is right.
    There are things better left up to the police department. It's in our best interest to not take an active role in certain operations. Theres nothing wrong with assisting the police department on a regular basis. We are all here for the benefit of the community. A perfect example is in the event of a bomb threat in a school. The Fire Department is obviously going to have to get involved but, we shouldn't be the ones searching for a bomb. for the simple fact that very few Firefighters are trained in this field. However there is not any thing wrong with assisting in evacuation, helping securing a perimeter and assisting in traffic controle. Depending on the department possibly providing a shelter for the students.

  16. #16
    Fyresq50
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    George, per your request, I went back and re-read the previous posts. Sorry-nothing changed. I still read them the same way. I feel IMHO, that the inherent risk of the job is not limited to exposing ourselves to fire and chemical hazard. Another way to say it, is that we acknowledge that we are at risk of bodily harm as part of this job. I feel that we all are on the same team with the common goal of public safety. Of course, no one wants to be shot at, and there are jobs that law enforcement should be doing, and not us, but there should be no cry of FOUL when they call on us to assist them in controlling a situation that endangers the safety of the citizens we are sworn to protect. If it means that I let a cop wear my turnouts to gain safe entry to a dangerous situation, then so be it. If it means that we pull up in front of a home that has been determined to be the source of the phone calls for bomb threats, using the engine as a visual block for the squad car that pulls up with us, fine (It has happened) I have no desire to enter a stiuation without determining the scene is safe and not under gunfire, etc. Just as a cop has no desire to go charging into a burning building. The cop will if he feels there is reason to believe that there is a life in danger though.

    I am not saying that we should routinely jump in and play cop. I am saying that there is too much of this Us and Them mentality. There is a community here in Wisconsin that has a new system for their public safety. They work 8 hours a day, and they rotate the jobs. Day one-you are a cop. Day two- you are an EMT, Day three-you are a firefighter. Then it starts over again. They operate out of the same complex, wear the same uniforms, etc. But everyone knows the job, all three aspects. The team concept works, and works well. They pay is the same regardless of which job you are doing on a given day as well, so there is no bickering of the branches.

    Just my feelings on the issue people-feel free to disagree.

    Jim

  17. #17
    postal79
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    we had a gas leak call at a residence, before our arrival the police had determined that the owner of the house had made a call to his girlfriend saying he was going to "take out a few people and himself"...backround checks showed history of mental illness and that there were weapons in the house. command had all responding units stage 3-4 blocks away from the scene until SWAT was called in a cleared the scene
    i feel any call where there are weapons or possible bombs all emergency personnel FF,ems should be in a safe zone till PD clears the scene. we are there to put out a fire or investigate hazmat reports, not to get shot at.

  18. #18
    Philip C
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down

    Assisting the police in tactical situations is a bad idea if it causes us to be confused with them. All it takes is one time for the wrong person(s) to see this and consider us as targets along with the police. It might not happen right away, but maybe when we least expect it. Fire departments need to work with police departments to set guidelines on what kind of help will and won't be given for certain situations so that the line seperating the two doesn't become blurred. Take care and be safe.

    ------------------
    Phil Clinard
    Laurel VFD
    Prince George's Co Sta 10
    Laurel, MD
    www.laurelvfd.org

  19. #19
    Fyresq50
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Phil, I agree with you. We should not be a first due option in tactical ops situations, and I agree that we should be sitting down with Law Enforcement to determine what our place will be should these matters require our assistance. By the same token, we may need a cop to assist us in a way that is above and beyond his job description as it reads on paper, and they will be more apt to help us if we go at things as a team rather than Us and Them. We are Public Safety. Not every situation is covered in an IFSTA manual. Sometimes we have to improvise. But we are all on the same team. We are talking about helping to do a job, like a cop that assists with a rescue prior to the arrival of the fire department. It is in the interest of the Safety of the Public. Or like using a piece of apparatus as a shield to assist the police in controlling a situation that is a hazard to the safety of the public. I do not expect us to take an active role in the takedown no more than I expect the cop to put out the fires.

    Jim

  20. #20
    FFTrainer
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Fyresq50 -- I see what you're trying to get at, but those cards are already laid on the table. Nobody here has said we shouldn't help each other out, because you're correct that the synergies of the groups working together CAN be very strong. They also CAN be very DEADLY if the WRONG group is given the WRONG role to play in mitigating the situation at hand.

    I think this topic is more of a question of where do we draw the line when helping each other out. If I'm dragging a line and need a hand, I would count on our local PD to jump right in and start dragging, but I would never expect them to be climbing the ladder right behind me to vent the roof. Likewise, I believe our PD can trust in us to provide assistance up to a point, Lighting for searches, boats for idiots who try to 'swim for their lives' etc. but if that means using my engine as a shield, so be it, but my men are not going to be anywere near it.

    It's common sense here, don't put your PD in a position that risks their safety due to lack of training and in turn they should have the same respect for us and know 'hey you guys did what you could, we'll take it from here.'

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