DENVER (CBS4) – When first responders in Denver are called to an active shooting scene, police officers and SWAT teams are no longer the only ones wearing bullet-proof gear.
Denver firefighters are now outfitted with Kevlar vests and helmets so they, too, are protected from gunfire on scene.
“The front plate and the rear plate are designed to stop a high-powered round,” Captain Jeff Linville with the Denver Fire Department said of the vests. “You have to keep in mind that police, their job is to go in and find the shooter. Our job as EMTs is to potentially save victims that are potentially down.”
Last Tuesday, the new equipment was put to use when police got a call for an “active shooter” at the Alliance Center downtown. Police entered the building first, with Denver Fire crews standing by in case they were needed inside. If firefighters had been needed indoors, Linville said they would have an armed police escort.
“The members did exactly what they’re trained to do,” Linville said.
The bullet-proof equipment went into service about a month ago, Linville said, following six months of training with police and SWAT. Linville said training will be ongoing for the department.
“It’s a high-risk scenario,” he said, “It’s something we need to train on often.”
Denver Fire is among the first departments in the country to use bullet-proof gear. However, with mass shootings on the rise, it likely won’t be long until the ballistic equipment is standard wear for every first responder.
““We have kind of set the trend across the nation right now,” Linville said. “Other agencies are doing something similar.”
Linville said firefighters are trained to wear the gear whenever they believe it’s necessary. Several have already worn the equipment on many shootings in the city.
Frank Villa with the Greeley Fire Department said their crews were the first in the state to use bullet-proof gear, getting their equipment about a year ago. Also, Poudre Fire Authority in Fort Collins also uses the gear.
Following the airing of this report, paramedics with Denver Health reached out to CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann to say they, too, were on scene of the Alliance Center shooting. According to the Assistant Chief Paramedic, four of their employees were inside the building for nearly an hour during the investigation.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.