Ariz. Medics/Firefighters Recall Tragic Tucson Shooting

Firefighters and medics who responded to the tragic 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., shared the lessons they learned at Firehouse World.


As the day turned to night, the FBI started looking for lights to continue the investigation and a captain with the department was able to negotiate a swap – release of the equipment for the deployment of lights, and the EMS component of the department was back in service.

The FBI also wouldn’t let the workers go without interviews, which kept responders on the scene for hours.

Another issue was the media, which was looking to talk to anyone about the situation and Rodeffer said the department had deployed something they called the “puppy treatment.”

They set up a media site away from the scene with bathroom facilities, food and information and that kept the media away from the scene initially, he said.

All eyes, including internationally, were focused on the shooting in Tucson and at one point, they were looking to talk to the medics and firefighters who responded.

The A shift was given a bit of time off to recuperate from the ordeal and, on top of that, it was their turn for five days off, Rodeffer said. The media was resorting to chasing after the firefighters as they responded and they found Compagno’s telephone number and were calling him at home.

The chief decided to hold a mass press conference with all the firefighters in one place at one time and let the media know they had to respect the fact that they couldn’t say much because of medical privacy laws.

The media scrutiny was so intense, the department was hoping that something else would happen to attract the press corps attention someplace else.

Rodeffer said the department has an on-staff PhD counselor to help personnel process the tragic incident and do so in a meaningful way.

As it turned out, the time the FBI detained the firefighters and medics became the first critical stress debriefing on an informal basis. Rodeffer said it’s the department’s practice to do an after action review of every incident like the shooting.

“We have beaten ourselves up almost every day for the last two years about how we handled that call,” Rodeffer said. “But, in the end, I don’t think there was any other way we could have handled it differently and I don’t think I would… In the end that everybody who was dead, is still dead, and everyone that was living is still living and that’s about all you can hope for.”