The Austin Fire Department is considering purchasing bulletproof vests for staff after the Federal Emergency Management Agency changed guidelines for first responders during mass shootings.
Emergency medical personnel must now treat the wounded at “Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Incidents” even if the situation is still dangerous, just like medics during wartime.
The FEMA report, released in September, suggests fire departments across the country invest in bulletproof or bullet-resistant vests.
“There’s always an inherent amount of risk going into those scenes, you know, and when you’re not protected with the best safety equipment out there, that risk kind of goes up,” Randy Denzer, of the Austin Firefighters Association, told KVUE-TV.
“More than 250 people have been killed in the United States during what has been classified as active shooter and mass casualty incidents (AS/MCIs) since the Columbine High School shootings in 1999,” said the FEMA report. “AS/MCIs involve one or more suspects who participate in an ongoing, random or systematic shooting spree, demonstrating the intent to harm others with the objective of mass murder. It has become evident that these events may take place in any community impacting fire and police departments, regardless of their size or capacity.”
“The Austin Firefighters Association is all for changing those protocols just like the Obama administration is now asking us to do. We're all for it,” Denzer said. “The one thing we're also for though is we want to make sure that if there's any safety equipment that can help us do our job better, help us get to the patients sooner than that's all worth looking into very well.”
AFD is looking for funding to buy appropriate bulletproof gear.
“What we’re trying to teach people now is to push forward, even though the scene may not be totally secure,” Captain Matt Clark told KTBC. “If there’s a section that is secure then we’ll start sending medics, start sending firefighters in to start evacuating and start treating immediately the wounded and so hopefully they’ll have better outcomes in the end.”
The paramedics with Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services have had bulletproof vests for the last 10 years.
“I last wore mine approximately two to three months ago,” said Commander Jonathan Mudge with Austin/Travis County EMS. “It was for a call in which a person had been reportedly stabbed. At the end of the day, our goal is to go home to our families and keep serving our community.”