First responders have always had a difficult job, but it seems like in today’s environment, their job has gotten more complicated and dangerous. We all know how dangerous being a police officer is, with dozens of cops killed in the line of duty every year. But, what about other emergency personnel, such as firefighters and EMS?
While most police departments require their officers to wear NIJ-listed ballistic protection, EMS and firefighters rarely have this requirement. This is why we’ve decided to write this particular article, giving our first responders a better understanding of why they need ballistic protection in this new age of active shooters.
What is ALERRT?
The ALERRT Center is the most exclusive, research-based, active shooter training our nation provides to our LEOs and first responders. It’s located at Texas State University and has been in operation since 2002. After the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings, the government needed to find a way to better assist local enforcement in active shooter response and medical care.
ALERRT is classified as the national standard in active shooter response by the F.B.I. and has trained more than 130,000 LEOs and more than 200,000 civilians for free since its opening. The ALERRT Center is funded by local, state, and federal grants that equate to more than $72 million.
ACTIVE SHOOTER DATA BASED ON ALERRT RESEARCH
When we analyze active shooter data from accredited institutions, we always try to focus on the facts and leave politics out. Our primary concern at ShotStop® is to provide the best ballistic protection for law enforcement and first responders that we can. For this blog, we’re going to stick with what’s relevant to first responders.
If you’re interested in learning about law enforcement response and statistics, read our blog: What is the LEOKA Program?
According to the ALERRT Center, there have been 347 active attacks between 2000-2019. Of those attacks, 317 (91%) were conducted with firearms. Out of that, 91%, 57% involved a pistol, 28% a rifle,14% used a shotgun, and a blade caused 7% of active attacks on Americans. This information should help first responder organizations determine what level of ballistic protection they need.
WHERE DO ACTIVE ATTACKS OCCUR?
There is a common misconception that active shooter events are limited to grade school and college campuses. However, the data shows that the majority (50%) of all active attacks on innocent Americans occur in commercial buildings. Schools account for 19% of these attacks, and public gatherings in outdoor locations make up 23%.
WHAT IS THE RESOLUTION DATA ON ACTIVE ATTACKS?
The point of bringing up the resolution data is to educate medical personnel about the likelihood of experiencing a mass casualty event. For example, 49% of all attacks are over before the police even arrive. This is especially important for medical personnel because this allows them to enter the scene quicker than if it were an active shooter scene.
Once the police arrive on the scene, 51% of the time, they shoot the suspect and stop the threat. 25% of suspects are subdued without being shot, and only 10% commit suicide after police arrive (most suicides — 21% — are done before the police arrive).
HOW MANY VICTIMS CAN FIRST RESPONDERS EXPECT?
According to the ALERRT Center, there have been 2,815 victims of active shooters and attackers. You can expect to deal with at least 4 victims (median) who are wounded and at least 2 victims killed.
I want to point out that every situation is different, and this is only the average. Having an idea of what to expect going into an active crime scene has always helped me as an LEO. It allows me to get my mindset right and prepare for the horrific scene I’m about to face. I believe it helps prevent me from hesitating in my actions and keep clear thoughts. Always fall back on your training!
WHAT IS A CASUALTY MOVEMENT RESCUE PLAN?
According to the Tactical Combat Casualty Care For Medical Personnel (TCC-MP), there is a list of things to consider as you enter an active shooter scene. In the past, EMS and firefighters were not allowed to enter an active shooter scene until the scene was cleared by law enforcement. However, organizations such as ALERRT and TCC-MP have realized that they could save more lives if medical personnel enter the active scene immediately. If you have to move a casualty to provide life-saving medical care, there are 7 steps to take (6 for unarmed personnel).
Location of nearest cover- As you first step into a chaotic scene, the sounds and visuals will most likely disrupt your train of thought. The first thing to do is look for the closest cover, such as behind doors, desks, and department shelves.
How best to move victims to cover- Once you know where to move the victim, think about the best way to get the victim to cover. I’m not an EMS or firefighter, so I won’t tell you how to do this part. There are multiple ways to carry a victim to safety; I trust your training covers all that.
The risk to rescuers- This is one of the most challenging parts of being a first responder. As a medical professional, your job is to save lives, but always consider your life as well. The risk is high for entering an active shooter scene, and your Incident Commander (IC) should decide what’s too risky and what’s acceptable.
Weight of casualty and rescuer- As sensitive a topic as this is for people to talk about, weight matters. If you're 160 lbs with an additional 10 lbs of gear, you’re going to have a hard time carrying or dragging a victim that is 250 lbs or more. If you can’t get the victim by yourself, ask another medic or able-bodied civilian to help you. Just make sure you guide the civilian on proper techniques if possible.
Distance to be covered- How far is proper cover from your current location? I know firefighters are incredibly fit and able to carry heavy equipment for long durations. However, it will take more time and substantially more risk to carry someone that’s too heavy. Try to recruit others to help if the distance is too far to cover by yourself.
Look for weapons on the ground near casualties-If you see a gun on or near a casualty, take control of the weapon and get it out of the way. I recommend handing it to the first police officer after they clear the scene.
PRIORITY OF LIFE VS. MEDICAL TRIAGE
According to ALERRT, there is a balance between stopping the killing and stopping the dying at an active scene. Every situation is different and will require different responses from both LEOs and medical responders. However, there are specific things to consider for every situation to improve the survivability of both victims and first responders.
To keep things simple for non-medical professionals, triage is organizing victims based on their injuries’ seriousness. For example, if someone was shot in the stomach and another victim shot in the hand, the one with the stomach wound will get first treatment. Think of “worst is first” when triaging victims.
Stop The Dying
This phrase is often used by both the F.B.I. and the ALERRT Center to explain how first responders are supposed to act in an active shooter scenario. According to ALERRT, the research suggests that the quicker medical personnel get into a scene, the more likely victims are to survive.
The debate whether or not medical responders should enter an active kill zone is hotly contested, and for a good reason. On one side of the coin, medical personnel are not trained in or equipped with tactical gear and guns to defend themselves. On the other side of the coin, research from ALERRT shows that more victims will survive if given immediate medical care. As ALERRT researches new ways to save more lives, Fire and EMS are going to be at the forefront. I believe this debate will go on for many years as new research from the inevitable active attacks are analyzed and put into practice.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE EMS AND FIREFIGHTERS?
As of right now, the consensus among federal and state law enforcement officials is for EMS and firefighters to enter the scene before police give it the all-clear. ALERRT believes that our law enforcement has become great at stopping the killing, but we can do a better job of stopping the dying. In short, if you’re an EMS or firefighter, you’ll be expected to put your life on the line more than you do so already.
WHAT DO FIREFIGHTERS THINK OF THIS NEW STRATEGY?
WE’D NEVER TRY TO SPEAK FOR SOMEONE ELSE, SO WE WILL USE ACTUAL TESTIMONY AND SURVEYS FROM CURRENT FIREFIGHTERS. ACCORDING TO FIRE CHIEF MARC BASHOOR, 81% OF FIREFIGHTERS HE INTERVIEWED SAID THEY BELIEVE THEY SHOULD BE ISSUED BODY ARMOR FOR RESPONSES.
Fire Chief Bashoor represents FireRescue1.com, which is an exclusive community of firefighters across the country that helps to educate them on relevant training, new procedures, and other fire-related news. The thing that stands out to me the most is his quote on where he stands with providing body armor to his fellow firefighters.
“We’re at a time when firefighters and paramedics need to have some kind of ballistic protection available to them,” he says. “Whether they’re fitted for it, whether you provide them to be placed on paramedic units, placed on fire engines, placed in supervisors’ vehicles, whatever you do, you need to do some deliberate thinking on it. Do the research and get them in the hands of your firefighters.”
DO FIREFIGHTERS FEEL PREPARED FOR MASS CASUALTY EVENTS?
In short, 73% of firefighters interviewed don’t feel adequately trained to deal with an active shooter mass casualty event. How do we fix this? The easy answer is to take advantage of the free training provided by Texas State University and the ALERRT Center. The taxpayers pay for this training, and it’s free to all first responders.
ARE FIREFIGHTERS PROVIDED BODY ARMOR BY THEIR DEPARTMENTS?
The scariest part for us is that 67% of firefighters said they were not provided body armor by their organization. And while 30% of firefighters are being provided body armor, 73% of them don’t feel appropriately trained in the gear. ALERRT will help tremendously, but each organization should conduct its own research on the best armor to wear and how to implement its use.
DO FIREFIGHTERS BELIEVE THEY SHOULD WEAR ARMOR AT EVERY RESPONSE?
As you’d expect, the vast majority of firefighters (70%) believe it should be based on a case-by-case basis. There is a lot to consider when choosing to wear body armor or not because a peaceful situation can always turn deadly before anyone has time to don PPE.
WHY ARE FIREFIGHTERS RELUCTANT TO WEAR BODY ARMOR AS OFTEN AS RECOMMENDED?
On average, firefighters wear at least 80 pounds of gear that LEOs and EMS don’t have to wear when responding to a situation. The addition of body armor can add 20-40 pounds to an already loaded-up firefighter. As a former soldier, I can tell you that it’s not easy to wear 100 pounds of gear and still provide emergency medical attention to those in need. Chief Bashoor agrees with this sentiment and understands the trouble for firefighters in deciding to wear armor.
“The choice to wear or not, if not driven by organizational policy, will be a very personal decision firefighters need to make,” he adds. “Recognizing that the safety is in the vest on your chest and not in your trunk, for the time being, I will advocate for constant training, awareness and situational-based wearing for firefighters.”
Body armor’s added weight will only increase firefighters’ fatigue and cause more discomfort on the job. As the saying goes, “pounds equal pain,” and this isn’t just for soldiers. EMS and firefighters have to find a way to get the protection they need and keep the added weight to a minimum.
WHY SHOULD FIREFIGHTERS WEAR BODY ARMOR?
According to the International Public Safety Association (IPSA) 2017 Line Of Duty Death (LODD), the number of non-law enforcement responders assaulted with knives or guns on duty has dramatically increased. The recommendation is for all emergency responders to wear body armor while responding to an unknown situation.
How Can ShotStop® Help Firefighters and EMS?
Chief Bashoor has an excellent point, and this is not just for firefighters and EMS. Nobody likes to wear body armor that is restrictive, heavy, and uncomfortable. According to Marine Capt. Courtney Thompson, 15 pounds of added weight is all it takes to be a detriment to your team and the mission. Wearing heavy gear for longer periods and under considerable stress will cause exhaustion and fatigue much faster than someone with less weight.
ShotStop® is the solution to all of these problems because of our advanced Duritium® technology. Many companies use polyethylene to cut the weight down, but no other company has a lighter, lower-profile armor with an NIJ-Listing. Our body armor is designed to be the lightest, thinnest, and most comfortable body armor on the market, and we cater specifically to first responders.
ShotStop® is Too Expensive, Right?
A lot of our competitors will try to tell you that their product is more affordable than our Duritium plates. In the words of our former President, this is “fake news” and has no validity whatsoever. Our Level III body armor may end up being a little more expensive upfront. Still, no other company offers the type of warranty we offer our customers, which means you actually save money.
We offer a 15-year warranty for all Level III plates, and the average for the industry is only 5 years. We offer 3 times the warranty because we are confident that we make the best armor you can find. To put this in perspective, you’ll have to replace other armor 3 times before you have to replace a ShotStop® plate once.
Why Choose ShotStop®?
15 pounds is all it takes of extra gear to compromise a first responder and limit their effectiveness. ShotStop® understands this dilemma and has created level 3 body armor that is only 3.2 pounds per plate! Our Level 3 +PS plate is 3.2 pounds and less than an inch thick to provide the lowest profile and lightest feel for first responders.
Firefighters and EMS deserve to be protected if they’re going to be expected to risk their lives further. A lot of body armor companies will use manipulative and misleading lingo to prop up their armor. ShotStop® provides all certification documentation with our products page because we believe in transparency.
ShotStop® was created to provide state-of-the-art technology to protect the men and women that protect us. We take this as seriously as we can and pride ourselves on accommodating our customers. For example, any police department, fire department, or EMS organization that desires body armor will get an exclusive discount for large orders. We encourage any organization that is interested in providing their team of heroes with the lightest, thinnest, and most comfortable hard body armor to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.