12. Violent Incident Response


National protocols for response to violent incidents should be developed and championed.

From the beginning of America’s fire service, firefighters have been responding to incidents that were the result of, or caused by, an act of violence. Fire departments respond to a wide range of events from the simple Saturday night altercation at the corner bar, to the events like: Watts, Columbine, Oklahoma City, 9/11, Webster, NY, or Gwinnett County, GA. On most occasions, the fire department responds, renders service, and returns to quarters. Unfortunately, over our history, not every member has been able to return home due to factors associated with violence.

In March 2006, former Peoria (AZ) Fire Department Fire Inspector Howard M. Munding produced a thesis titled “Violence Against Firefighter: Angels of Mercy Under Attack.” In the thesis, he quotes the stunning statistic that an estimated 700,000 assaults occur on paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) annually. Additionally, according to a 2008 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Firefighter Fatality Report, 32 firefighters died from assaults while on duty in the report’s 32-year history. At the end of 2010, that number grew to 34, or one firefighter per year. In order to ensure that we meet our mission, to make sure everyone goes home, we offer the following strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of injury or death from responding to incidents of violence.

  • Improved understanding and application of Dynamic Risk Management
  • Initiate or improve communication with the local law enforcement component.
  • Define and expand role of dispatchers in reducing risk
  • Prohibit single (person) resource response to violent incidents
  • Require use of an Incident Management System
  • Communicate directly with Law Enforcement component prior to operating at an incident of violence.
  • De-commit personnel and equipment and leave if violence commences or reoccurs during fire department operations
  • Obtain stakeholder understanding and buy-in of response and deployment policies including non-response and non-engagement at incidents of violence.

Implementing these strategies will help reduce the likelihood of fire service members being injured or killed during a response to a violent incident. The 12th Initiative expands our understanding of how and where firefighters can be injured and demonstrates the need for the development of national protocols regarding violent incidents.

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