EMS1.com has an article about how a proposed armored ambulance has resulted in protests from the community. Here’s part of the original article from ABC7news.com:
…However, many in the community see the vehicle, with gun ports and a turret, as a threat. Some at the meeting said they think the device could escalate situations an could cause people to behave more irrationally.
…”Basically it’s an ambulance with armor protection around it,” said Lt. Randy Brand. “And it would basically be used to integrate fire and EMS and police personnel into a critical incident instead of bringing a regular ambulance.”
But not all residents believe that’s all it would be used for. Opponents are calling it a tank and they worry it will lead to a militarization of a police force that to this point has a good relationship with its residents.
I find this very interesting, especially considering that in 2013 FEMA recommended sending EMS personnel into the “warm” zone of active shooter situations. On one hand I have to applaud the department for looking to provide the protection to EMTs and Paramedics that they deserve when responsing to such an incident… yet on the other hand I am left to wonder whether or not that is the best answer considering the apparent community reaction.
If there is an active shooter in this community, will its members expect their EMTs and Paramedics to go in unprotected after THEY protested such protection? I am going to venture to say… yes, they will. This is one of the hypocrisies we in EMS face on a regular basis. Communities often have an unrealistic expectation of service, a problem compounded by both the dramatics of Hollywood and our own failure to explain accurately the abilities we actually have versus those we are believed to have.
With the FEMA recommendation many agencies have begun taking steps to better integrate EMS into their active shooter response plans. There is a cost to properly train and equip EMTs and Paramedics to respond in the recommended fashion in these scenarios, but it is a cost many communities are seemingly not necessarily willing to cover. Yet when there is another incident, and the EMS crew stages two blocks away waiting for the all clear, they risk being criticized for this common practice. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type scenario.
It’s important to make sure that the community understands exactly what each EMS agency is capable of and willing to do in such a situation. If the community wants more, then perhaps such a proposal for an armored ambulance can be explained by making the case of meeting expectations. If not, then it is important to remind them of their decision when such an incident arises and the agency comes under fire for not doing more in a situation where they were denied both the training and equipment to do it safely. Hopefully the residents of San Leandro will not have unrealistic expectations should the need for the vehicle actually arise.