"The Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services will soon issue body armor to firefighters to wear during violent situations," said Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services Public Information Officer Capt. Tommy Rutledge in a news release. "The armor is part of additional trauma-related equipment that was identified based on an internal evaluation of response procedures for mass trauma incidents. Such incidents include vehicle accidents and acts of violence."
Rutledge explained the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 illustrated the need for medical personnel to be able to make a more rapid response.
"In the majority of violent situations, fire and emergency medical personnel are forced to remain outside until law enforcement officers clear the building or hazard area," Rutledge said.
"The armor provides adequate protection for firefighters as they work with police to quickly search for, remove, and treat victims," Rutledge added.
In addition to the body armor, the department has also purchased trauma kits that include bulk bandaging and tourniquets to treat trauma victims.
The overall cost for the body armor is $344,714 and will be funded through the department's operating budget.
Gwinnett County Fire is not the only public safety agency adjusting its response to mass casualty incidents. Gwinnett County Police officers, along with fire and emergency services personnel, will participate in training this summer to better prepare for "active shooter" situations such as the one at Sandy Hook.
"In the past, GCPD officers have trained to approach active shooters in small teams," explained GCPD Public Information Officer Cpl. Jake Smith in an announcement regarding the traning. "Now, GCPD officers will begin training to confront active shooters immediately upon arrival and will no longer wait for several officers to be present. Each officer that arrives will immediately enter the facility, containing and confronting the shooter as quickly as possible. Speed is of the essence; most casualties occur within the first 10 to 15 minutes of an active shooter incident."
In order to quickly locate and stop the shooter, officers must bypass any injured individuals.
"In an effort to save as many lives as possible, fire department personnel will begin training to enter an active shooter scene before it is secured," Smith said. "This presents a greater risk to medical first responders than tactics used in the past."
Medical personnel are not armed and typically do not enter a situation where there is active gunfire. During the training, fire personnel will practice entering an incident scene under police escort. The body armor will provide additional protection should an actual active shooter situation arise.
Gwinnett Police and Fire will conduct the joint training exercises from May 30 until July 9 at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton. Volunteers are needed. Click here for additional details.
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