Mass Casualty Incidents, News, Operations, Terrorism & Active Shooter

Wisconsin Department Purchases Body Armor for Fire, EMS Personnel

Franklin – Franklin’s fire department now offers ballistic protective equipment (BPE) for all of its personnel that would respond to an active shooter situation – the equipment was purchased using funds from 2015’s budget and will be available to personnel before the end of 2015.

The recent purchase of additional protective gear is the fire and police departments’ response to what Police Chief Rick Oliva called a “paradigm shift” for fire department personnel – the need to enter a live scene.

“You see what happens in different parts of the country seemingly on a daily basis,” Fire Chief Adam Remington said. “Prior to Columbine, we would stay at a distance and wouldn’t be involved until afterward, and basically the problem with that was people died from injuries.” After recent mass shooting events, such as the events in Paris and San Bernardino, the police and fire department saw a need for fire and medical responders to enter a potentially unsecured shooter situation.

“We don’t go in there while bullets are flying; that’s not our intent,” Remington said. “We don’t go in by ourselves – we would always go [with the police]. The police department is armed, that’s not our expertise. Our focus is on the patients, getting them out of there and getting them treated.”

Being Prepared

While the fire department had a few sets of BPE gear, the new purchases will provide all responding personnel with their own sets of protective helmets and body armor.

“Who would have thought that there would be a mass shooter in Oak Creek? It can happen anywhere,” said Mayor Steve Olson, referring to the Sikh Temple Shooting in 2012.

“Our paramedic units were on the scene just after the Oak Creek units were.”

In addition to providing protection in the event of fire department personnel responding to another community, the purchase of additional gear realistically prepares for the future, according to Oliva and Remington. “You look at where these things happen – it’s communities like Franklin,” Remington said. “It’s happened in Oak Creek, it’s happened in Brookfield. It’s similar demographics, similar makeups.”

While Remington admitted he was not an expert on “active shooter or mass-casualty events,” they typically don’t occur in impoverished communities, but in suburban type communities similar to Franklin. In October, several Milwaukee-area police and fire departments participated in an active shooter simulation at the Milwaukee State Fair grounds hosted by the Greenfield Police Department. Additionally, Oliva anticipates more active shooter training in 2016.

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