Concern First Responders Are Targets Is Changing Emergency Response
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There's more concern than ever among first responders that they're being increasingly targeted when responding to calls, and not just by people here at home - they're worried about terrorists looking to increase fear and bloodshed.
"We are trained to save lives, and we know what we're doing is dangerous," said Robin Valeri, a Volunteer Firefighter with the Cuba Fire Department.
It takes a special kind of person to be a first responder, and getting that job done is increasingly dangerous. LeRoy is the most recent example locally, but it's not the only one:
- In April, a woman set a fire to a house on Glenwood Avenue in Buffalo and attacked firefighters with a knife as they tried to rescue her from inside.
- In 2012, a man set his Webster house on fire and then shot at first responders, killing two firefighters and injuring others.
"They're hoping that it will slow us down in our work and allow them to create more carnage and to have more people die," said Valeri.
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California, it's even more of a concern.
"We really try and not let it interfere with our work, but it is a concern because we know groups like ISIS are targeting first responders," said Valeri.
First responders have increased training across disciplines to address these types of situations. Some ambulance companies are even providing bullet proof vests for EMTs.
"As a firefighter, that would be really difficult because our gear is already quite heavy, but it is obviously not bulletproof. It is protecting us from fires, so there the unfortunate part is that police might ask us to wait before we respond, which might slow us down," said Valeri.
There's an increased interest in finding gear to better protect firefighters. In the meantime, they're taking extra precautions, especially with the increased concern for chemical attacks.
"It might change our equipment. I can show your our breathing apparatus. It might be more likely that even if we're responding to something that, in the past, we would think it's safe, that now, we think that it could be a danger to us, so we're going to put on our breathing apparatus before we respond," said Valeri.
While it's changing the way first responders react, the increased threat is not stopping people from signing up to be on the community's front lines.
"We're always in danger, so I think even with the threat of terrorism, we are going to respond. We already know that our lives, our safety, our health are at risk," said Valeri.