Fire dept. purchases EMS body armor for active shooter response

The $118,488 purchase of ballistic helmets and body armor is for the San Antonio Fire Department’s technical rescue team and medical special operations unit

By Josh Baugh
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — A rescue squad within the San Antonio Fire Department will soon be equipped with protective equipment that will allow the team to enter an active-shooter incident before police have contained the situation.

The City Council on Thursday approved an expenditure for $118,488 to purchase ballistic helmets and bullet-proof vests for the Fire Department’s technical rescue team and Medical Special Operations Unit. The gear will make ready the squad assigned with rescuing victims during an active-shooter situation, Fire Chief Charles Hood said in an interview. The personnel have already been through training, including with the FBI, and the Fire Department and Police Department are coordinating so emergency medical personnel can access victims before the proverbial smoke has cleared.

SAFD Chief Charles Hood discusses the department's EMS capabilities
SAFD Chief Charles Hood discusses the department's EMS capabilities (Photo courtesy of Facebook SAFD)

“It’s not a question of if something like that is going to happen here in this region,” Hood said. “It’s just a question of when, unfortunately.”

Hood said that traditionally, medics would wait at the periphery of a scene until it had been “cleared” by police officers. But after reviewing the plethora of active-shooter incidents, Hood said, experts know that lives can be saved if those medics can access victims before police officers have either apprehended or killed the shooter.

Looking back at the mass shootings at Columbine High School and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Hood said, “there were people who survived the initial shooting, but they lay on the floor and bled while officers were clearing the structures.”

The protective equipment approved by council Thursday will allow those rapid-response team members to enter scenes that are still active and provide medical help.

“This protection that we’re going to have is going to allow us to be able to task our firefighters and paramedics to go in and retrieve these people under force protection of PD. So by no means are we turning ourselves into police officers,” Hood said “But we are going to make an effort to go in and remove those victims as quickly as we can to stop the bleeding, to get them to a collection point to where we can transport them successfully.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor said such gear has become a necessity.

“Unfortunately, this is the type of thing we need to be proactive about. These incidents continue to occur, so we want all our first responders who have to be on the scene for those incidents to be best prepared with the equipment they need in order to try to bring resolution and attend to those who may be hurt or injured,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s just the day and time we live in.”


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