Saline firefighters are being equipped and trained for the nightmare scenarios that have become all too common in America.
The Saline Area Fire Department recently purchased bullet-proof vests, helmets and emergency medical equipment. Firefighters would use the equipment in an active shooter situation. Half the department has already been trained in active-shooter exercises. More firefighters are being trained Saturday morning at Saline High School.
“We never thought equipment like this would be part of the fire service, but God dang, we can’t sit on our hands, because someday something will happen in our area, and we’ll be called, even if it’s for mutual aid in a neighboring community,” Fire Chief Craig Hoeft said. “We hope that we train with the gear once a year and then put it all in a bag and never use it again until the next training.”
Hoeft said body armor is becoming more commonplace in the fire service.
“At Columbine, they left injured people in the school for two or three hours because they had to clear the building of the shooters. There were people there who could have been saved. So the idea now is to get fire and EMS involved early.
Each set of body armor comes with a bullet-proof vest and helmet. Each vest has front, back and side plates strong enough to shield firefighters from high-powered guns. Each set also comes with a medical bag filled with equipment you might find in an Army medic’s bag. It includes tourniquets, dressing for gunshot wounds, compression bandages, airways and other equipment.
At an active shooter scene, one group of police officers will continue looking for the shooter while another group works with firefighters and EMS to provide very basic medical care to people who’ve been hurt.
The training isn’t so much about the medical treatment as it is the emergency operation.
“Most people already know about the medical procedures. It’s about how you work with the police to stay safe while providing care,” said Saline firefighter Zech Johnston. “It’s about a lot of the communication.”
Saline and Pittsfield firefighters have been training with police from Pittsfield and the University of Michigan.
The fire department paid for the new gear with money raised during the annual Firehouse Chicken dinner at Summerfest. The gear cost around $3,000, Hoeft said. The fire department also used proceeds from the dinner to purchase another thermal imaging camera which helps firefighters “see in the dark” at a fire