In today’s world, firefighters do much more than quell blazes. They are frequently called upon to serve in emergency response situations ranging from active shooters to natural disasters. For these first responders to be prepared to meet the challenges faced in these scenarios, firefighter training throughout the U.S. must expand.
New Mexico pushes for more firefighter training
In New Mexico, State Sen. Michael Padilla introduced a bill that would fund a local fire department to train its members to respond to active shooters. With the proper knowledge, emergency workers could then enter a warm zone, which occurs when firing has ceased, treating the most seriously wounded individuals and triaging others in a timely manner.
The bill appropriates $50,000 for the fire department of Bernalillo County, the most populated in the state, to receive the training and equipment needed for this type of crisis response. If the measure passes, training is slated to begin in March.
Ultimately, New Mexico wants this effort to go beyond firefighters, stressing the need for medical personnel to undergo tactical medical training. This would allow rescue workers to quickly provide necessary treatment to wounded individuals on the scene, rather than wait several blocks away for the area to be declared secure.
State changes mimic federal adjustments
The push to expand firefighter training to cover more emergency scenarios in New Mexico parallels an expansion going on at the federal level. Organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency are encouraging all fire departments to supply bulletproof vests for responders. Although this has yet to take hold nationwide, some units are following the recommendation.
FEMA is calling for more cohesive training between fire departments and other law enforcement agencies. To maximize survival, law enforcement, fire and EMS teams must work together, and that begins by planning and training together. To develop universal emergency protocols the effort must include joint field exercises and familiarity with procedures taken by other organizations. New Mexico is just one state heeding this advice, and if the bill is passed, Bernalillo County hopes to run three mock shooter scenarios with other law enforcement groups to practice a collective response.
Firefighter response has been positive
The reaction of firefighters to these new initiatives is mixed, but many favor the richer safety protocols. The International Association of Fire Fighters expressed support, citing the improved quality of emergency care during active shooter events and the added layer of safety for firefighters wearing bulletproof vests. Other first responders see value in a widespread, cohesive readiness plan.
“I think that they’re taking every bit as much risk as we are,” Captain Matt Clark, an EMS worker from Austin, Texas, told a local news source. “I think in those situations that everybody is going to be relying on the fire department for a lot of assistance, and if they’re going to be in there with officers that are wearing vest and medics that are wearing vests, I say they should be wearing vests as well.”
For now, outfitting fire departments with new emergency equipment and training will fall to the local and state level. The changes may cost departments money, but the value of increased security and lives saved is beyond measure.
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