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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

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

By Adam K. Thiel

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 However, in the majority of cases an experienced law enforcement officer would probably also have withdrawn to cover and waited for backup.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.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Jeff Allen Jeff Allen Tuesday, September 18, 2012 4:36:05 AM All firefighters should not be and do not need to be armed. However any member of a fire department performing fire/arson investigation must have arrest powers and be armed. As in my case where I am a police officer with my fire department mainly for investigations, I am also available as a law enforcement officer for support during suppression efforts. This is a crazy world full of angry people. Any assistance we can provide our brothers is important and needed. There is a place for some members of a fire department to be armed. Stay safe.
Michael Leo Michael Leo Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:00:25 AM Definately no. If you want to do that combine your Law enforcement and EMS and Fire.
Daniel Bryson Daniel Bryson Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:04:31 PM Since when do we as Firefighters/EMT/Paramedics not have the right to protect ourselves? Does the Second Amendment not apply to us?
Kevin Lehberger Kevin Lehberger Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:47:01 AM I think it is a far off possibility that EMS providers would be allowed to carry, but I think Concealed Carry would be a definite possibility, and maybe even save a life of one of our brothers or an innocent civilian.
Steve Peal Steve Peal Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:29:20 PM The Second Amendment is all I can say.

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