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Mass. Firefighter-Paramedics Prepared for Shootings with Ballistic Gear

Apr. 25—If there were shootings in a school, the Somerset Fire Department has armored vests and helmets that firefighers/paramedics would wear to go into the building to treat victims and bring them to the hospital.

Fire Chief Scott Jepson said the Fire Department has six sets of that gear and helmets and puts two of them on two ambulances and on the frontline fire apparatus, in case needed.

"It's the reality of the world we live in," Chief Jepson said of why the Fire Department has the armored gear. "It could happen anywhere, anytime."

Chief Jepson said the firefighter/paramedics would go into the building after police have secured the scene. But he said the armored gear is needed just in case firefighter/paramedics are in a situation in which they are going to help someone, but there still could be a person with a gun in the building or a bomb in the building. He said police could provide cover while the firefighter/paramedics are trying to get to patients.

Chief Jepson said Somerset firefighter/paramedics have done training for how to respond to a situation when there is a shooting in a building. But he said every situation is different, so it is difficult to plan for such situations. He said he hopes that more training can be provided to Somerset firefighters on how to respond to such situations when they will have to help people who have been shot.

Security in schools has been in the news a lot recently since 17 people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in February. The Somerset School Committee has started a number of different initiatives to improve safety in the schools and parents have been bringing their concerns to the Somerset School Committee.

Statewide, Chief Jepson said fire chiefs are trying to come up with policies that would address how firefighter/paramedics would respond to such situations.

Chief Jepson hopes the armored gear will never have to be used because there will not be any shootings.

"But we have a responsibility to protect our members any way we can," he said. "That's one of the ways to do that. Nothing is perfect."

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