EDITORIAL: Firefighter body armor

Determined killers, deranged gunmen and terrorist threats have forced local emergency responders to rethink their approach — and their safety — in active-shooter and multiple-casualty scenarios.

Last week, the Clark County Fire Department announced it had received 118 sets of body armor, thanks to a federal grant. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Ben Botkin, each battalion can provide working firefighters and paramedics with vests that stop rifle shots and helmets that deflect shrapnel. Going forward, the added protection will allow firefighters to immediately respond with police to aid those injured in an attack, rather than wait for police to clear an area — a response delay that can cost victims their lives.

With new capabilities comes new training. Firefighters will have to learn police tactics such as entry, concealment and taking cover.

“It’s a paradigm shift for all of us,” Clark County Fire Capt. Evan Hannah said. “We’ve never gone into situations like this before, so it’s definitely a learning curve.”

The department will provide attack-response training to all firefighters — at quite a cost — as opposed to creating a small, specialized team. It’s the right call — every second counts in such violence, and the department’s jurisdiction, including the Strip, is too large for one unit to cover.

It’s terrible that medical response has reached a point where paramedics might have to wear military-grade safety equipment. We’ve long criticized the purchase of expensive gear for local emergency responders with federal dollars — if it’s a necessary public safety expenditure, local governments should fund it. But we can’t ask paramedics to enter a firefight, like last month’s CiCi’s Pizza/Wal-Mart shooting, and provide potentially life-saving treatment without adequate protection.

Here’s hoping these vests and helmets are never used outside of training.


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