Lt. Richard Craig and Eli Hemphill tend to Sherree Liming during an active-shooter training simulation at the German Twp. fi rehouse in Lawrenceville on Thursday .
A dozen German Twp. paramedics are swapping out their fl ame-retardant coats for bullet proof vests as part of the department's new Active Shooter Response Team, the fi rst of its kind in Ohio and one of only a few elite teams nationwide.
When a shooting occurs in a large building, such as a school or shopping center, it can take hours for law enforcement offi cers to check the area and give the all-clear for paramedics to assist the wounded. In that time, many victims die waiting for help, said German Twp. Fire Chief Tim Holman.
Paramedics won't have any weapons, instead relying on the vigilance of their two-person teams to stay out of the shooter's path, Holman said.
"It's unacceptable for me to think there are people bleeding to death when we could go in and fi x that," he said.
Two years ago, when Clark County Sheriff 's Deputy Suzanne Hopper was killed and another offi cer was injured in the gunfi re at Enon Beach, Holman said he began building a team of paramedics trained to enter active shooting situations with law enforcement to treat the wounded amid gunfi re.
"If we have an active shooter and law enforcement goes down, our priority is to that law enforcement offi cer," he said. "We don't want to see the same thing happen that happened in Enon Beach."
Similar paramedic teams exist in Raleigh, N.C., and Orange County, Calif., Holman said. The concept has been controversial for some law enforcement agencies that have raised safety concerns.
The Dayton and Kettering fi re departments, along with most others in the area, state and country, continue to follow a longstanding protocol for dealing with active shooter and other hostile situations.
"That calls for us to wait for police to secure the scene before we proceed inside with cots to do treatment or potentially remove victims," said interim Dayton Fire Chief Jeff rey Payne.
Some departments in an eight-county western Ohio metropolitan medical response team "are moving toward a new response policy, but that would not include arming fi refi ghters or paramedics," he said.
One proposed new strategy, he said, would call for some police to respond immediately "and seek to take out the shooter or shooters, but for two other armed offi cers to also enter immediately with paramedics, who would not be armed, but would wear ballistic gear including protective helmets and bulletproof vests."
That capability already exists for the city of Oakwood's Safety Department, which is one of a few in the country that cross-trains its police, fire and paramedic personnel to cover all three disciplines.
"In a standard situation, we would not expect our paramedics to bear weapons when they respond in a medical emergency, although police officers responding would be armed," said Maj. Randy Baldridge, assistant director of Oakwood's Public Safety Department.