Why Firefighters Should be Given Body Armor
On the 5th of July, a Firefighter in Milwaukee was called to assist paramedics with a patient. While attending to the accident, a several shots were fired from an adjacent alley, hitting the 46 year old Firefighter. This came at the end of a weekend that saw 6 people murdered with firearms in Milwaukee, and in this case no suspect has yet been found. Thankfully, the Firefighter in question was not killed, and yet he was incredibly lucky to survive. This is sadly not an isolated case either, as Firefighters regularly find themselves facing injury during the line of duty, whether it is caused accidentally or deliberately. Despite the dangers facing Firefighters, body armor is still considered to be an unnecessary piece of equipment for these brave men and women.
This is for a number of reasons; some feel that providing Firefighters with body armor can invite further attacks as it signals preparedness for injury. This is a difficult argument to make, as Firefighters already find themselves being attacked regularly. On the other hand, some- including Firefighters themselves- have argued that body armor is an unnecessary addition to an already bulky and impractical uniform. Body armor can increase the temperature of the wearer, which is naturally of concern to Firefighters. However, there are solutions to this problem.
How We Can Protect Firefighters
It has been suggested by some that providing training in mediation and negotiation tactics for hostile situations would be preferable to providing body armor. Some have similarly argued that Firefighters be more cautious in attending situations, instead waiting for confirmation from police services that an incident is safe for them to attend. Of course as many in the fire service can attest, attending scenes as quickly as possible is vital to save lives, and delays that involve two branches of our protective services would be an incredible drain on resources. It is also not feasible to suggest that Firefighters deal with hostile individuals in addition to the myriad duties they are already expected to perform, particularly when these individuals regularly come equipped with weapons including firearms and knives.
The only reasonable option to keep Firefighters protected is to provide them with body armor. Modern bullet proof vests utilize extremely thin and lightweight materials without sacrificing protection, and so can be worn comfortably for extended periods. Similarly, they remain flexible and secure to ensure that the wearer is not hindered in any way. Many of these vests are also available in covert styles, allowing them to be worn underneath a uniform, effectively disguising the Firefighters armor completely. However, for ease of use vests can also be worn over a uniform, allowing them to be quickly equipped when needed. Body armor is also capable of coping with extremely high temperatures, making it all the more useful for Firefighters.
Available, Not Mandatory
Wearing body armor will help keep Firefighters protected against myriad threats, but there are those who will not need it, for whatever reason. This is no reason not to supply it however, as long as it is not mandatory. Having an overt vest, i.e. one worn over clothes, means that body armor can quickly and easily be equipped when the situation calls for it, and yet in circumstances that likely do not require protection against attacks, body armor need not be worn. Body armor can provide protection even for situations that do not involve attacks however, as brute force and blunt trauma can be mitigated to some extent by ballistic protection. Similarly, there is testing in place for armor that can protect against CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) threats, making bullet proof vests all the more useful for Firefighters who are called to increasingly diverse situations.
Injury to Firefighters is a serious problem that all too many consider as simply ‘part of the job’. These brave men and women provide our communities with an invaluable service, and where protection is available for them, it is irresponsible not to provide it. It need not be compulsory, as for many it will thankfully not be needed, but providing a bullet proof vest to Firefighters will allow them to stay safe in situations that call for it, without having their ability to perform their duties impeded in any way.