Editorial: First responders need protection
A firefighter has to be prepared for a lot.
Fire, naturally. Structural damage to a house. The elements, since emergencies don’t put themselves off for fair weather. Even access to simple life-sustaining oxygen.
That last one shouldn’t be a factor, but it is.
Jeannette firefighters are being outfitted with body armor because of the risk of violence. The department’s relief association is spending $13,000 to supply vests for 15 volunteers while the city pays for three more for three full-time paid firefighters.
It is tragic, but firefighters are going into situations where the risk demands preparation, just like wearing a jacket that will withstand flames and a respirator to breathe despite the smoke.
In September and October, Jeannette firefighters responded to fatal shooting incidents. They show up for drug overdoses and other medical situations. They respond to calls that involve domestic disturbances that can get rapidly out of hand. They need to be prepared, and they need to be protected.
And Jeannette is not alone. The dangerous situations present themselves everywhere.
In May, a Wisconsin firefighter was killed when a man he had just revived shot him. In October, an Oklahoma firefighter was wounded by ammunition that was set off in a fire.
Other first responders face similar challenges. Paramedics and emergency medical responders head into dangerous situations to render aid. The Centers for Disease Control tracks injuries to emergency medical service providers. Of 21,200 instances in 2017, 3,500 were because of violence. That’s about one injury in every six.
It’s another reason that we have to be willing to prioritize proper support for our first responders.
Our first line of defense has to be protected. Our safety depends on it. And they deserve it.