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Targeting First Responders

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By John Morse

With the tragic events in Dallas, it makes us all wonder if we are targets.  The first time the fire service felt like we were targets was after the 911 attacks.  Carefree firefighters who always had an open door to visitors, switched the open door policy to secured doors and strict policies on who was allowed into the station.  Recent events show that hard working dedicated police officers need to have a higher awareness to these new threats.

Fire and police stations are now equipped with security and cameras recording who comes and goes at the station.  Instead of just walking in the door, we all now need to enter an access code, use a key fob, or ring a bell to get in the station.

Since the 911 attacks, fire departments have combined with police to develop security plans that even include inspecting the outside of the station at regular intervals looking for suspicious packages.  There have not been many instances where things were found on these inspections, but it does make us all aware of how things have changed.

It was pretty common to see the overhead doors left open at a fire station, especially after the rigs pulled out on a call.  I used to be aggravated when a driver would wait in front of the station when responding to a call with the lights flashing waiting for the overhead door to close.  We were going on a call and I didn’t see any reason to wait for that door.

There were a few instances of people calling in a false alarm and then sneaking into the station to steal things, but that never really concerned me.  One day we returned from a call to see a highly suspicious guy sitting in our station.  We asked him what he was doing and he just left.  Later that day we found a note on the floor talking about how he wanted to kill a bunch of fireman.  The police investigated and found him to be a local resident with some mental issues, but he also has access to a few guns.  We all kept our doors locked and eyes open for a long time after that, and yes, we all wait for those bay doors to completely close before we pull away on a call.

We all pretend not to be worried about these threats but deep inside we are all aware of the extra danger we face as first responders.  It is unfortunate that we are all in this situation that requires us to look out for threats that didn’t exist 30 years ago.  It is not just a police or fire service issue, it is an issue that affects us all.  Strange behaviors or suspicious person need to be reported and investigated.  Numerous suspects have been stopped because concerned citizens decided to make a call to 911.

There has always been a friendly competition between police and fire, but today more than ever, we stand together.  We now train together, share resources, and we really know each other better.  The increased threats have made us work together, and together we are stronger than ever.

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