"You Can't Frisk Everybody," Firefighters React to Omaha Shootin - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

"You Can't Frisk Everybody," Firefighters React to Omaha Shooting

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

The firefighter shot by a woman suffering from a seizure was released from a Omaha hospital, but the shooting raises questions about firefighter safety.

80 percent of the calls firefighters respond to are medical calls.   

"Quite honestly on a medical emergency you start to put your guard down a little bit because you're dealing with a medical emergency," said Jerry Holt, Urbandale Fire Dept. Chief.  "You have no reason to suspect somebody wants to harm you."

When Holt worked in Alabama he had guns pulled on him during two different medical calls.

"We had a lot more violence in that community," he said.  "We routinely wore bullet proof vests on any type of call where there was a shooting, stabbing, or domestic violence going on."

Des Moines firefighters frequently deal with people who fight back.  Sometimes they use knives, but never a gun.

"You have to be prepared pretty much for anything," said Capt. Steven Brown, Des Moines F.D.

Firefighters mainly try to keep themselves safe by letting police investigate before getting involved.

However, medical calls do not always demand police's attention.   A situation like what happened in Omaha is rare and just a risk firefighters have to take; and hope they never have to deal with.

"You can't frisk everybody that you take care of," said Holt. "You can't just go through the process of seeing everybody as the bad guy - thinking everybody's out to get ya.  Otherwise, this job would just consume ya and it'd take away all the fun of doing the job."

The Des Moines F. D. does have bullet proof vests if they feel they are going into a dangerous situation.

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