This past year in Charlotte, and currently in many large cities across America, we see signs of protest and what Portland police called rioting. While we can hope that this type of behavior will subside quickly, the incidence of protesting and riots seem to be on the rise.
I will not get into stopping them or the politics involved, but I will discuss how we should protect our firefighters and how we will need to prepare and respond to the events.
Personal Protective Equipment
The first consideration for our response to violent incidents is protecting our personnel. I could not have imagined when I stated in the fire service in 1994 that we would suit our personnel in body armor and have expectations that we would operate in close proximity to the violence. But this is a fact and we must ensure our personnel are protected.
Body armor comes in variations for fire/rescue and our tactics must align with the personal protective equipment (PPE). Some PPE is known as center mass and will protect a direct shot to the chest. It does nothing to protect the abdomen or a side shot. It does not need special fitting either. It is popular for this reason among fire/rescue agencies.
Other body armor is equivalent to the police issue, is fitted to the person, and offers a much higher level of protection. This can be costly because of the special fitting and personal issue of the PPE.
One of the best tactics for riot response is the taskforce concept.
Even a trash can fire must receive a full 1-alarm assignment, as you will likely not hook to hydrants and will need to work twice as fast as our normal pace. Not to mention, we will need safety personnel to watch our backs.
Within the taskforce concept should be a heavy police presence. We have seen firefighters shot at, hoses cut, among other shenanigans at these events. We must show a large force and overwhelm the rioters if we will engage in firefighting efforts.
We must also consider a risk/benefit when conducting operations. While we are sworn to protect property as well, what is the risk to our personnel just to get to the event?
Apparently, the poor behavior of some individuals has become our norm, be prepared for how you will respond to the event in your community.