Local EMTs to receive active shooter response gear

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/10/2019 10:55:13 AM

Area first responders are getting bulletproof gear to rapidly remove civilian casualties from possible active shooter scenes.

The fire departments of Antrim, Peterborough and New Ipswich all received Warm Zone EMS grants this year from the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

The grant covers the cost of ballistic protective equipment for rescue task forces, or teams of firefighters and emergency medical services who operate in conjunction with law enforcement during active shooter events. 

“The objective of the team is to treat, stabilize, and rapidly remove civilian casualties while wearing ballistic protection and under the protection of Law Enforcement,” according to a best practice guide by the NH Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. EMS professionals have historically been trained to not enter an emergency situation until police have declared the scene safe.

In recent years, best practices promoted by the Department of Homeland Security began to permit medics with proper training to enter “warm zones” in hopes of reducing casualties through expedited medical attention for victims. A representative from the NH Department of Safety described a warm zone as “essentially safe, but close to where an active threat is occurring.”

The grants reimburse purchases of up to $6,000 in protective equipment, including bulletproof vests, gloves, knee pads, helmets, and shields.

“It's a changing world out there and it's a reality, and we've had some incidents that have hit sort of close to home,” said Antrim Fire Chief Marshall Gale, who applied for and received the grant this year.

On Aug. 1, a police officer was wounded in a standoff in nearby Weare. Gale said he wants to be prepared to work with law enforcement if they have to go into an active shooter situation to treat victims or extricate them.

“It's a subject that's kind of tough to bring up, but we just have to be prepared for it. Hopefully we never have to use this equipment, but if we do, we have it,” he said. 

He ordered seven sets of bulletproof helmets and vests that are designed to accommodate EMS equipment including tourniquets and bleeding control products, enough gear to fully outfit two ambulance crews, he said. The equipment is due to arrive in the next two weeks. 

New Ipswich Fire Chief Meredith Lund said her department’s application was approved several months ago, and she purchased six sets of equipment.

“We want to be prepared for anything that might happen in our town, and [active shooter events are] one of the things we keep seeing across the nation,” she said on Monday.

In such an event, she said her department would feel that they had to respond.

In order to be eligible for the grant, at least three-quarters of an interested department must complete Warm Zone Awareness training through the New Hampshire Fire Academy.

“The training has all been online so far, and it's been pretty interesting,” Lund said, and that it provides attendees with an understanding of every organization’s role in an active shooter emergency. “We want to make sure we have the same training as the police department.”

 After a department purchases their equipment, at least one-quarter of the members must complete an “operations training aspect,” or a live practical training with the equipment within a year. Organizers are encouraged to coordinate with the actual people who would respond to a shooting event in their area. Gale said he hopes to coordinate a practicum with fire, EMS, and local and state law enforcement during February vacation at Great Brook School in Antrim. Lund said her department has their training scheduled for November at Mascenic High School in New Ipswich. Civilians are not permitted on the grounds for the duration of the course. 

“All of my guys are required to take the training,” Lund said.

She said that although it would be up to individual members of her crew to respond to an active shooter event, just like they may choose not to engage in other risks like climbing ladders or entering burning buildings, she wanted everybody in the department to understand how agencies respond to an active shooter event so they can help even if they’re not directly on the scene.

“We wouldn’t strap a vest on them ... and force them into a hostile situation,” she said. 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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