Arming firefighters and EMTs is no easy call

With violence on the rise and budget cuts continuing to hit public safety, whether to carry guns is a debate likely to heat up

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Today, Chief Adam K. Thiel tackles the difficult issue of whether or not firefighters and EMTs should carry guns to protect themselves on scene.

This story illustrates a long-standing debate that potentially affects the fire and emergency services, as well as our partners in law enforcement.

It's an emotional issue with no easy answers, particularly as local government budget cuts continue to impact the provision of all public safety services in many jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, firefighters and EMS personnel are no strangers to domestic violence, homicide, drug crimes, civil disturbances and other acts of violence.

Like many readers I'm sure, I can think back on multiple occasions where we, usually unwittingly, found ourselves in the middle of what we might typically consider a law enforcement incident.

As I reflect on my own experiences, and talking with my police/sheriff counterparts in trying to identify ones where being armed would have helped de-escalate the situation, versus making it more violent and unstable, I can identify a few, maybe. However, in the majority of cases an experienced law enforcement officer would probably also have withdrawn to cover and waited for backup.

That said, with the continued occurrence of mass shootings across the United States, the effects of the recession, and the threat of a kinetic terrorist attack a la Mumbai, India, maybe it's worth a discussion.

What do you think?

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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