ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - They are the men and women who run toward trouble and put their lives on the line to save the lives of others.
Now, more is being done to protect first responders from gunfire during active shooter situations.
Law enforcement officers have historically been equipped with tactical and ballistic gear. That same equipment is now being added to the gear list for firefighters.
In Las Vegas, fire fighters have been equipped with protective helmets and bullet proof vests for a couple years. That equipment proved useful during the Sunday night mass shooting near Mandalay Bay.
“It seems like they were well prepared,” said St. Lucie County Fire Captain William Garrigan.
Firefighters in our area want the same protection from gunfire. Not only does it protect them in an active shooter situation, but it also helps them more safely get to victims needing immediate medical attention.
Garrigan says St. Lucie County Fire Rescue is equipped with nine tactical helmets. They are shared among the fire fighters who would respond to an active shooter scene, or an area where a threat has not been completely contained.
Those helmets were purchased after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last year.
The Fort Pierce Police Department has also donated ballistic vests to the fire department. St. Lucie County Fire Rescue is planning to replace those with nearly 100 larger, more protective vests within the next six weeks.
“There’s actually been times where our trucks have gotten shot at,” Garrigan said. “We face a lot of potentially dangerous situations every day.”
Martin County Fire Rescue is not equipped with any tactical gear at this time. In the next year, fire fighters plan to change that.
“It’s unfortunate we have to have this conversation,” said Chief William School.
Schobel wants to have the vests in every one of his trucks. The department is looking at state and federal funding options as well as grant opportunities.
It’s their latest response to the growing number of mass shootings in our country.
“Several years ago, we started looking at this just as a trend,” Schobel said.
Martin County Fire Rescue is among the local fire departments that have also completed active shooter training along side deputies in their county. In that training, fire fighters and deputies work together to enter an active shooter scene and save shooting victims.
Deputies in that case work to shield firefighters. Now, Schobel wants to give them an added layer of protection, given the growing range of risks they face.
“We would much rather be going into a fire than this kind of situation,” Garrigan said.
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue is already using body armor and tactical helmets, kept in each command vehicle in the field.
WPTV reached out to the Indian River County Fire Chief for information about their ballistic and tactical gear. We are waiting for a response.