Policy change will send Pittsburgh firefighters to all calls involving gunshot wounds

Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt said crewmembers will support EMS and police while gaining trauma experience that may help in an MCI


By Justin Vellucci
The Tribune-Review

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Pittsburgh Public Safety is looking to get more hands on deck when a shooting takes place in the city.

Effective Monday morning, Pittsburgh firefighters will respond, along with police and EMS, to all crime scenes involving gunshot wounds, Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt told the Tribune-Review. Previously, firefighters only responded to mass casualty situations, or scenes involving multiple gunshot victims.

All Pittsburgh firefighters have EMT training.
All Pittsburgh firefighters have EMT training. (Photo/Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire)

"They will be there to support the police and EMS," Schmidt said. "I think this also provides our firefighters with some experience in trauma situations so, if there is a mass shooting, they're more prepared."

"It's all about providing the best service to the communities we serve," he added.

The new plan is in no way a response to Pittsburgh currently experiencing a spike in homicides and gun violence, Schmidt said.

The plan pre-dates Mayor Ed Gainey's administration and has been vetted by Acting Police Chief Thomas Stangrecki, Fire Chief Darryl Jones, and EMS Chief Ron Romano, Schmidt said. It also had been reviewed with each division's respective union.

All Pittsburgh firefighters are trained at the level of an EMT, a step below a paramedic, and they know their way around a crime scene, said Ralph Sicuro, president of Pittsburgh Firefighters Local Union #1. Some firefighters have sought certification as paramedics, and the department employs some firefighters trained as nurses.

City firefighters were medically trained as early as the 1980s, and have been certified as EMTs since training for that started around 2005, he said.

"Any time you have an existing resource being used to help with citizens, I think that's a positive," Sicuro told the Tribune-Review.

Robert Swartzwelder — president of Pittsburgh's police officers' union, Fraternal Order of Police Local #1 — supported Schmidt's move to send city firefighters to all shootings.

"I think it's a smart move, to assist with citizens when there's a mass casualty situation," he said. "The three emergency response units were always designed to work together."

The EMS union, Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local #1, could not be reached Tuesday for comment.


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