In the wake of increased violence and recent riots, the Seattle Fire Foundation is currently raising funds to provide their firefighters with specially-designed ballistic vests and helmets that would protect them when called to a violent scene where medical attention is required.
According to a Kiro 7 report, 80% of the calls made to the Fire Department in 2019 were for medical care rather than fire-related incidents. Medical emergencies could involve violent actors, whether in private disputes or in large-scale acts of violence committed in public.
To meet these challenges while keeping firefighters safe, the Foundation wants to equip every firefighter with their own bulletproof vest and helmet.
“The Seattle Fire Department is committed to getting to any patient, in any condition, in any circumstance,” says the foundation’s website. “Whether they’re in the Puget Sound, sick from contagious disease, or in a burning building, we will do whatever is possible to meet this commitment.”
The Foundation cites Seattle’s increase in violent crimes over the past few years that have required fire response, including the Lake City shooting, the Westlake shooting, and the Pine Street shooting.
The Foundation says that common procedure at one time required law enforcement to clear the scene of an incident prior to Emergency Medical Responders providing care to any victims. “In large-scale incidents, this could take over an hour; time that critically injured patients could not afford.”
“Having proper ballistic protection is an essential piece of the protection element,” writes firefighter Michael Mann on the website. “It protects the firefighters and gives them and their law enforcement escorts piece-of-mind about entering these scenes early and rescuing a highly vulnerable patient population.”
After firefighters were among the first to respond to the March 2019 Lake City shooting – in which a man took to the streets, shot several drivers, and caused car accidents – the foundation began to raise funds to obtain ballistic sets so that first responders would be personally protected from any active threats while still providing life-saving services.
The violent protests of the past few months that have consumed Seattle streets added additional motivation for the Foundation to supply as many firefighters as possible with the ballistic equipment.
Firefighters have responded to the summer riots in Seattle and have treated both wounded officers and protesters in the middle of the violent chaos around them.
“They’re people that are risking their lives every day to help us, the citizens, the people living in the city,” said Seattle Fire Foundation founder and president Debbie Steinhauer. “And the only reason they’re at risk is to help us.”
“We just want to be able to give the tools to the firefighters so they have the protection to go and help and treat victims of this violence, this increased violence that’s happening in the city.”
The Department currently has 70 ballistic sets, and the Foundation’s goal is to raise $130,000 by Labor Day to equip every firefighter with their own vest and helmet.