City Program Sends Unarmed Firefighters and EMTs into ‘Active Shooter’ Situations

NY Post - October 03, 2016

by Kenneth Garger and Susan Edelman

The city has launched a controversial program to use firefighters and EMTs to help rescue critically injured victims in “active shooter” incidents, The Post has learned.

New York’s Bravest and FDNY paramedics are being trained to accompany special NYPD officers into buildings or other places where a gunman or terrorist is killing people and help bring the wounded to safety.

The first “rescue task force” units are ready to roll in several Midtown firehouses — near Times Square, the Port Authority bus terminal, Penn

Station, Madison Square Garden and other crowded places. They were deployed in the Sept. 17 Chelsea bombing, the NYPD confirmed.

But the program has fueled concern among the unarmed first responders, who could be exposed to mass murderers or terrorists using assault weapons or explosives.

“It’s a f–king disaster,” a worried firefighter said. “We’re relying on these cops to give us the all-clear to head in and administer aid. What happens if there’s more than one shooter? We’re not ready for this.”

Another FDNY member dubbed it “the sitting ducks squad.”

Teams consisting of three firefighters, two EMTs and an EMS officer will wear bullet-resistant vests and helmets. Four cops specially trained for emergencies will guard them — two in the front and two in the rear.

It’s a drastic change from past practices. Usually, cops pull out victims, and medics wait in safe areas to give first aid.

Under the new plan, FDNY members would not go into a “hot zone” where a shooter or terrorist is still active. But they could enter a “warm zone”–with no imminent danger but still under threat — if escorted by the NYPD.

The only medical treatment given victims on the spot would be to stop heavy bleeding with a clotting agent or a tourniquet, or to clear the airways. The injured would be put on tarps and dragged out to safety as quickly as possible.

The plan was spurred by a spate of mass-murder incidents nationwide and around the world. In some cases, wounded victims likely died while rescuers waited until it was totally safe to reach them.

During the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last June, paramedics never entered the building during a three-hour standoff between the gunman and cops. It’s unknown how many of the 49 people killed might have survived had rescuers gotten them out sooner.

The FDNY said it is confident the program will not put members in needless danger.

“We are committed to developing protocols that will allow us to save innocent lives while protecting our members who will – at all times — be working closely with and under the protection of law enforcement officers,” said spokesman Frank Gribbon.