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Fire/EMS Response to Civil Unrest

Wed, 9 Mar 2011|

Civil unrest events are becoming more prevalent around the world and fire department and EMS units are playing a greater role in responding to them.



[BLANK_AUDIO] The program's goal is to prepare some fire and EMS responders. With some basic tools and information to assess and develop your civil unrest and violent protest guidelines and procedures. There definitely appears in todays world an increase in these type of events. Across the United States acts of violence towards firefighters and medics continues to grab headlines. Regardless of where you work you will likely face the challenge of responding to some type of incident that will involve violence towards first responders. Violence can and does occur in suburban, metropolitan and rural areas and can include large crowds mixed with alcohol, violent protests and civil unrest. For some responders, these type of events may become a common occurrence and for others, they may not be used to it but we need to plan for it none the less. The presentation is designed to help fill your gap and your knowledge of these types of situations and how you can plan and respond to these situations. A rapid, safe, and successful response to these type of chaotic situations does require planning and preparation. The likelihood of a civil unrest incident is low, but with the increase of these type of situations, it's important that public safety agencies plan for and prepare for these in a multi-agency requirement. Recent civil unrest and violent protests have demonstrated the need for local, state, regional and federal public safety agencies to prepare for these situations. These situations can occur even in smaller jurisdictions and rural towns. If you have a college, if you have a large sports event or if you have a political event, this can cause some type of civil unrest. Our valid protest situation. Under local and state wide mutual aid agreements even if your jurisdiction does not impacted, you may be call upon to assist your neighboring agencies and planing for it, responding to this incident if it does occur. Preparation is the key to a civil unrest event. That requires you to do extensive planing and preparation before the incident occurs. Again it is important to remember that these events in occur in sub-urban, rural and metro areas. The first step in the planning process is to review your current guidelines and procedures on how your ANC is going to respond to a civilian unrest event or a violent protest. As with any multihazard assessment and planning process, it's important to bring your key agencies together to conduct an exercise to evaluate your plan. This can volve, can involve a tabletop exercise or a functional exercise that will allow you to identify any shortcomings in your planning process. As part of this planning process it would be important to invite your local or regional R state emergency management office into your planning process as they may already have contacts and are conduction planning and training an exercises with your mutual aid partners. So this will allow you to reach out to your community agencies and you may already have built some relationships. And some networking. Another important step in the planning process is to reach out to any other communities that have had a similar event in their jurisdiction to find out what lessons that they learned. It's important to remember that the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution does guarantee people the right to peaceful assembly. And to petition their government to address grievances. On certain occasions this peaceful line is crossed and violence will occur and that's where public safety becomes a concern. The Incident Command System is one of the best tools that any public safety agency can utilize to respond to these situations. The Incident Command System allows you to make notifications, call for resources, establish a unified command, use operations officer, etc, etc. Again, the Incident Command System is an excellent tool that any agency at any size can utilize to manage these situations. It's important to remember that public safety agencies must continue to plan for and prepare to use the incident command system. And this is guidance provided to us by the Department of Homeland Security. First arriving units will have a drastic effect on the outcome of an incident. It is very important that any public safety agency first on the scene provide a situational update in their windshield survey, immediately upon arrival. A reminder for fire and EMS agencies, that there is a difference between law enforcement on the scene of an incident and scene is secure. Fire and EMS agencies should remain in a secured staging area until the scene is secured when possible. [BLANK_AUDIO] There are two major type of incidents that could occur. One is an organized or planned event, and the other is a spontaneous event. An organized event could be a political event. Such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the DNC, the RNC, the IMF, the G8, the G20, any large-scale political co, event, or convention, can lead to some type of violent protest. You can also have sporadic events, which are on college campuses, block parties, sports events, street celebrations. Mardi Gras, Spring Break, rock concerts or any of these type of situations that can lead to those events occurring. You may also have racial tensions that will lead to events such as the LA riots, the Cincinnati Over the Rhine neighborhood event or the Benton Harbor, Michigan event. Correctional facilities have also seen a history of civil unrest. So it's important if you have a correctional facility such as a prison or jail in your jurisdiction that they are prepared for these events to occur. If dispatched to some type of violent unrest situation, it's important to get all the prearrival information available to you from dispatch. The current location and the nature of the call are very important. As we know, dispatching information may not always be correct, or very vague based on the information the communications center is receiving. For fire and EMS ATS, it's important to request law enforcement assistance. As soon as possible when the indicators of a violent protest or civil unrest event have been given. Firefighters and medics should have access to ballistic body armors, part of their personal protective equipment ensemble, if they are going to be responding into these type of situations. It's important for fire and EMS agencies to be able to identify if they do not already have available ballistic body armor where they could find that in the times of need. Or to address that in their multi angecy planning on which agencies would have that available to them as a civil unrest event is not your normal shooting or stabbing call. Your procedures and guidelines may not address the use of ballistic body armor, so it's important to discuss that at this time on how your AC would respond in your own community for one of these events if they occurred. Typical fire EMS procedures require that law enforcement is on the scene prior to their arrival to any type of violent situation. But, with a civil unrest event, you may find yourself on scene first due to a wrong address or to the victims coming to you. Any type of violent situation such as crowds, fighting, civil unrest should raise a red flag for firing the EMS responders to be kept more aware of the environment of the situation that they are responding to. Fire and EMS should never hesitate to call for law enforcement if they think the situation warrants it. They just need to be able to justify that request. Alcohol may be present in large groups and crowds and there is almost always an individual or individuals. Who may target responders or believe that responders are not moving quick enough to help their friends or family deal with whatever medical emergency they may have. As part of your situational awareness, upon arrival, you do have one option that's called parking past the situation. This is where you will drive past the situation, that you're are being dispatched to, to give you a little bit of an idea of what's happening, and who's involved, and what's occurring on the scene. You will drive past the incident. If it's deemed unsafe, you can continue to drive. If you feel like you can enter the scene, at that time, you can stop the vehicle. Another arrival option is the quiet approach where you will stop short by 50 to 100 feet away from the incident. Turn your lights and your vehicle off and listen and look at what's occurring before you make the decision to enter that situation. If the scene appears to be too violent to enter, it's important that you may need to back your vehicle up to a more secure location, and call for law enforcement and additional resources if necessary. One of the met reasons you may want to pull out of the area, because if the participants see you, they may come toward your fire truck or your ambulance. [BLANK_AUDIO] Responders need to constantly maintain a sense of caution when dealing with large, hostile, or violent crowds. Reminder that not everyone will greet Fire and EMS with open arms. It's important that Fire EMS respondents maintain a good relationship with law enforcement and utilize the unified command approach to respond into this type of situations. [SOUND] Fire EMS responders should always operate in a two men or body team when responding to this type of violent. Civil unrest events. There are two types of, what are described as, profile responses to these events for Fire and EMS. One is a hu, high profile response. And the other is a low profile response. A high profile response will require that Fire and EMS. Utilize all their personal protective equipment and will wear clearly marked vests, helmets, hats, jackets, whatever material they have that will identify them as fire and EMS responding to and from the scene and on the scene. A low profile or non-traditional response for fire EMS. Involves special operations which includes tactical medics, cutting and extracting protestors, law enforcement support, joint and hazard assignment teams, or any other special operation where the A.C. may not want to have their names and badges identified on their vests or coveralls. During these type of events, EMS mainly through adopt a scoop and scout and load and go response to remove or extract patients or injured personnel from these immediate areas. [UNKNOWN] agencies. Should check their guidelines on procedures and when they are allowed to do a rapid load and go response on removing the victim from the scene without having conducted a patient assessment. Fire and EMS personnel should recognize when verbal abuse could possibly lead to violence. Also, persons or persons who are intoxicated may confuse firefighters and medics to being law enforcement officers. This confusion could cause these individuals to react violently to the presence or fire at EMS personnel. In some areas or jurisdictions, just responding to the scene of an incident and leaving your flashing lights on may draw a crowd. This will depend on the situation and the jurisdiction. Even if the crowds that may form at an incident in your jurisdiction are non hostile, then your mutual aid communities that you may respond to. These crowds could become violent very quickly. Always be cautious of large crowds mixed with alcohol. And if you arrive on the scene of an incident, and the people that you are making contact with are belligerent, intoxicated or violent, you are not obligated to enter that scene until it has been secured by law enforcement. Four fire departments, NFPA 1500 6-7 states that fire departments will have plans in place on how to safely and effectively respond to all types of violent situations, including civil unrest, crowds mixed with alcohol, domestic instances. And other violent situations. Your agencies may not believe that this topic applies to them, but it's very important that you do plan and train for these type of situations for several reasons. 1, the incident could occur in your jurisdiction or it could occur in a surrounding jurisdiction that you may respond to help with. Also it would be important during this training that your agency reach out to your local law enforcement to build that networking capability with them and last you're agency may enjoy this training. During a civil unrest or violent protest situation there several things that would need to happen. Number one, fire, law enforcement, EMS all share some of the same priorities, life safety and incident stabilization, during an incident. Planning and inter-agency cooperation are very vital to these events. Now, law enforcement may need fire and EMS coverage and their support during the response to these situations. Also law enforcement may need to support fire and EMS during these situations. Firefighters may need to extract or extricate protesters from locking mechanism devices such as bicycle locks and EMS may need to provide tactical medics to support law enforcement operations. So as you can see there's several key things that will need to happen. That will require interagency cooperation. First responders should also recognize that these events can occur for a variety of reasons. They're not just limited to large urban areas. These can included several situation. Such as peaceful demonstrations and protests that turn confrontational, violence related to major sporting events, concerts and block party events that turn violent, community-based violence, such as racial tensions in a specific area, and planned political events are conventions that can turn violent. Two other major factors that can lead to events in your jurisdiction, depending on where you're located within the United States, can include spring break events and rock concerts. It's important that fire and EMS agencies know that at one time the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an intelligence bullet, bulletin referenced tactics used during protests and demonstrations. That advised law enforcement agencies that a lot of protesters and demonstrators had a planning process in place to prepare for these events. They were using training camps, they were using improvised weapons, they're using their own communications, and they were targeting law enforcement agencies. So, from a safety standpoint, it is important that fire and EMS agencies. Recognize that this information has been provided. As part of your planning process, it's important that you request this information from your local law enforcement agencies as a briefing to help you in your planning and preparation for these events. One current and emerging threat that you may have heard of recently in the news is what's referred to as a black block. A black block is a collection of anarchist groups that come together and organize for a specific protest. They are typically held in reserves and other locations away from the protest and may show up to disrupt or cause problems in the event and it's important to remember a black block is a tactic and not an organization. If you are planning for an event or responding to an event and you hear the term black box used or the fact that there is a black box in the area. It's very important to remember that this could lead to a violent situation as some of the black box members may come from other communities outside your area. Some of these groups may have actually no interest in the reason or the politics involved with the protest that is occurring, their primary focus is to come and cause violence or disrupt the event. Experience with past civil unrest and violent protest have showed us. A few key items. Number one, pre-planning is critical if there's going to be a planned event in your community. Number two, immediate inter-agency cooperation unified command is important to have a safe and successful response to the event. Number three, clear communications are necessary for effective response and this involves both personal communications and radio communications. Also, access to helicopters for overhead assessments is a plus, if you have access to that resource. Also, move or empty trash dumpsters and trash cans in the area cuz they are very easy targets for arson during one of these situations. There are several tactics that the protestors have used in the past, that we need to plan for. Protestors can be organized and use such tactics, such as safe houses in your community, surveillance on public safety agencies and their own internal communications with radios and Nextels. They've also target a law enforcement by using super [UNKNOWN], play guns, square guns to spray ammonia, gasoline or other chemicals on law enforcement. Also, [UNKNOWN] cartels can be a serious fire hazard and we need to plan for that. Protestors will also utilize rocks, bricks. Bottles, cans, fireworks, against public safety agencies. They also use improvised devices such as sling shots or wrist rockets to shoot BBs and marbles towards law enforcement. In the past, some of these same threats such as the super soaker guns, the wrist rockets and the sling shots. And the bricks and the bottles have been used against Fire and E.M.S. responders. There are several other protestor tactics that Fire and E.M.S. agencies need to be aware of. One of these is called the human chain. And this is accomplished through the interlocking of arms, legs and bodies and is used to quickly block streets and intersections. They may also add chains and other locking devices to this interlocking of arms and legs which may complicate the response and in removing the protestors. Also they will use locking devices such as devices that consist of steel and plastic PVC pipes to lock their arms in the pipes. Also buckets, bicycle locks, drums and other devices will be used to anchor individuals to each other or to solid objects. During these responses, fire departments will be called upon to assist law enforcement in removing these protestors from these locking devices in a safe manner. If you believe that this type of threat could occur in your community based on the environment such as a college or political event, the important thing to do is to form a special team that involves fire, EMS and law enforcement, and look at the legal requirements. The equipment, the personal protective equipment that may be involved in this operation of extracting these protestors. There are some other situations that will also come up during a civil unrest or violent protest situation. These include the protestors placing suspicious packages in critical infrastructure areas and calling in bomb threats. To disrupt normal operations. Also, during these events, 9-1-1 calls and 9-1-1 centers will be overwhelmed, as those 9-1-1 calls will go up. During the Los Angeles riots, two firefighters were shot and seriously injured. During the Benton Harbor, Michigan riots several firefighters were injured by thrown debris. So again it's important to remember that fire and EMS can be targets of violence. Some other important factors to remember during civil unrest or violent protest situation include immediately extinguish any small fires. If and when possible because they become a method of gathering larger groups of individuals to one area. So, let's try to extinguish even the small fires as soon as possible. Also, past events have shown us we need to secure construction sites in the area of the protest or event. Since they contain rocks, bricks, concrete, barrels and other material that the protestors. Can use against public safety agencies. In past events violent protestors have filled barrels with water or cement and will roll them down hill towards law enforcement and response agencies. Also it's always important to remember that alcohol is a significant contributor to violence during these events. In sports and concert events, alcohol consumption has escalated violence and has increased the number of injured personnel that you may have to deal with. If you have a planned event in your community, or you have a spontaneous event that occurs that may go on for several hours or days. You will need to activate your local emergency operations center as this will allow you to bring in all the key agencies to work in a long term multi AMC environment to assist with response, recovery and management of the situation. Also, you'll need to activate your local joint information center or your JIC. Because you will have multiple media outlets responding to your site. So we need to get our public information officers into that jict, to provide them with updates and briefings. The public information officers for your agencies will provide a credible tool to help you during the response. By one, keeping the public updated of what's happening. Number two, telling the public to stay out of the impact areas, and three, correcting any misperceptions or conceptions on how you are responding to the incident. There's several key issues from a medical consideration standpoint that we need to review. Number one, tactical medics may be the only fire and EMS's staff allowed in the warm or hot zone of an event to provide care to the wounded and to the responders. EMS again, may need to utilize scoop and scoot, and load and go from the incident scene to a more secured area. They may also need to establish casualty collection points. Which are in safe areas or areas of refuge away from the event. And this is the area where all victims will be brought to for care and triage. EMS, depending on the size of the event, may need to implement their disaster procedures, based on the number of casualties, such as triage tags. Casualty collection points, and field treatment hospitals, for the care of minor injuries. From the medical consideration standpoint, it's very important that you involve your local hospitals in planning for these events. Especially when you have a large crowd, or large number of people showing up. Is they need to do some internal planning and preparation and work with the EMS agencies. And excellent resource that can be used by all public safety agencies including fire, EMS and law enforcement, is the use of the specially trained, tactical medics who can assist in the planning of these events. Dealing with the events are responding to the spontaneous event. Tactical medics are specially trained and equipped firefighters and medics, who provide specialized casualty medical planning, response, care, and support to law enforcement agencies during one of these situations. Tactical medics can provide care to wounded citizens and primarily to provide support and care for our law enforcement responders when they are dealing with a violent protest situation. If your agency is interested in tactical medicine, there are several resources available for you. That you can basically go online and search or talk to a local law enforcement agencies as there are several different training and certification programs available to you. The most important about tactical [UNKNOWN] is they have trained with their local law enforcement and they are familiar with their tactics, procedures and personnel. One consideration that fire and EMS first responders may not typically train on is the difference between cover and concealment. If you find yourself in a situation where debris, rocks, and bottles are being thrown at you you need to know the difference between cover and concealment. Cover which is hard cover may protect you from rocks and bottles, but concealment hides you without offering you any type of protection. So, if you find yourself in these situations, you obviously need to find cover versus concealment. Cover may include the fire truck, and ambulance, other vehicles. A building, concrete, walls. While concealment may be a bush, then you have to know the difference between the two of those from a safety standpoint. Some other considerations for fire and EMS include extra staffing during, before, and after an event and the staging of additional equipment and personnel to support your community in the response. Mutual aid agreements should be implemented during this incident. Also, from a personal protective equipment standpoint, fire personnel should wear a full PPE at all times on scene, and responding to and from incidence that they find themselves in the midst of a civil unrest event. This also applies to EMS personnel. One example is during an actual incident, as your driving from call A to call B, you need to keep your bunker gear, your helmets and other personal protective equipment on as you drive through the impact area, as in past events, responders have been injured even while traveling in their response vehicles. A personal protective equipment resource that EMS can look at is your extrication gear. Does your agency or state require some type of person protective equipment for EMS to wear during an extrication? This can include heavy duty coveralls, heavy duty extrication gloves and a helmet and eye protection. If so, this is some of the PPE that EMS can wear during a civil response event. So fire and EMS tactics that can be utilized include, again, try to obtain ballistic body armor for those responding into the impact area of a response. Also fire trucks, it's a good idea to remove axes, hooks and pulls and ladders from outside of your fire apparatus, as in some past events these were stolen or used as weapons against the fire personnel. One option is placing duct tape in the windows of your response vehicles in an X. Some type of heavy tape as an x may prevent the glass from shattering in f an object is thrown through the window. Again, always operate in a buddy team, a two man team when you're responding to these situations and never leave your fire apparatus pump panel operator alone during an actual fire operation. Ballistic body armor can be used for other threats beyond bullets. Thrown objects, slingshots, bee bees, bricks, bottles, ballistic body armor can protect you from these other threats. Some fire department specific tactics that need to be considered during a civil unrest event. Include no aerial or ladder company operations unless it is for life safety. Is this gonna expose the firefighters to gun fire and other threats? Also no laddering if structures of personnel on the roof. Again we only do this for life safety rescue operations only because this will expose the firefighters. To gunfire and other threats, and have in past events. No interior fire fighting. We would only do this again for life saving and rescue only. Defensive operations only. Short hose lanes, rapid attack and quick take ups maybe necessary if you find yourself in the middle of a civil unrest situation. No overhauling of the scene, and employ hit-and-run tactics. Especially during smaller fires, such as vehicle, dumpster, and trash fires. These tactics are not part of our standard operating guidelines and procedures, and are only used during the extreme threat environment of a civil unrest event or violent protest. If possible, fire departments, you should get guns for fire fighting operations during a civil unrest event. It may also be necessary for fire and EMS to abandon the scene very quickly depending on what the situation is. Be prepared also to leave vehicle and trash fires unattended if the situation warrants. Again, this will depend on the situation. Fire and EMS must also prepare for mass decontamination of protestors and others who may be exposed to large amounts of law enforcement chemical agents. Such as OC, CN, and CS. Responding to any type of these situations will require fire and EMS to have a law enforcement escort. Now these events can be unusual for fire and EMS AMCs to deal with. You need to find out what legal requirements or justifications you may have available to you. In planning a responding to these events. When can you let a fire just burn unattended? When can you not treat a patient, when can officers and firefighters defend themselves? So you probably need to look at your local jurisdiction, talk to your local assistant district attorneys and see what requirements are necessary for you to meet. One important [UNKNOWN] you should work with in your planning and preparation for a civil and rest event is your department of public works. They can help you in a lot of different ways including removal of the trash cans and dumpsters we talked about. You may need to utilize their heavy trucks. You may need additional barricades. For the deportment of public works, both at the local level, the county level and the state level maybe an excellent resource for you. One important consideration is budget and financial planning for these types of events if they are going to occur. If you have a planned event in your community, you may have more time to prepare for this and look at the budget constraints that may occur. Some of the considerations are man hours, overtime, calling for additional resources and support. You have some options there. One is your mutual aid agreements, to call for help into your community. But you need to make sure your mutual aid agreement is up to date and clear on this. You have other support available through what's called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. through your local and state emergency management agencies. Also if your town declares a state of emergency or even a disaster declaration, what exactly does this mean? How does it impact a civil unrest event? This may allow you to bring in over time, to open up additional budgetary money and funds that was not available to you. So, obviously, financial and budget considerations will help you in your planning and preparation process. Pre-event multi-agency planning is very important to these events, and planning for these events in a safe manner. Part of this will be which hospitals will be involved. Will your local hospitals be involved? We have to use outlying hospitals. Do they know this? Have you contacted them? This is all part of the multi chain planning process. Also, with mutual aid agreements, you may have standing mutual aid agreements in place, but how long will it take those resources to get to you? Also if this is a widespread event, these other jurisdictions may need to look to their own needs first before they support you. So, as part of this planning, multi-agency planning process you need to try to answer a lot of these questions, prior to the event occurring. An excellent agency at the local, the county, the regional, the state, and even the federal level to help you in multi-agency planning and preparation will be your emergency management office. They will already have the contacts to all these key agencies. They will have already been involved in the planning process and vulnerability assessments. We'll have access to your community disaster plan. We'll have access to your emergency operation center, so you're emergency management agency needs to be a key partner during this planning process. It's also important to find out if you're going to have what's called an NSSE, a national special security event, in your community. These involve events such as the republican national convention, the democratic national convention, the G8 Summit and other large scale events that federal resources will be involved in. If your community hosts an NSSE, you will be planning and preparing for a lengthy amount of time prior to the event occurring and you will have access. To a lot more resources than you normally would such as federal and military assets. [BLANK_AUDIO] If you have additional interest in this topic for Fire/EMS there are two excellent no cost programs available through the Department of Homeland Security Center for Domestic Preparedness. The first course is field force command and planning. Which addresses the command and control of these events from an emergency operations center and command post stand point. The second course is the field course extrication tactics course which provides information on it's tracting protestor safely. From these devices of their using to lock themselves together or to a solid object. There's for more information, the link has been provided for you. These are through the center for domestic preparedness. Both of these courses are at no cost to your agencies and you have two options. You can go to Anniston, Alabama to attend the training or the center for domestic preparedness. Provides mobile training teams and they will come to your jurisdiction to prepare you for these situations. For additional reference material for fire and EMS, the federal emergency management agency, or FEMA, have two excellent reports you can access through the fema.gov website. The first one is called. The task force report on dealing with civil unrest events, which was put together by a multi-agency task force. The second is a technical report on the 1996 St. Petersburg, Florida riots, which addresses fire and EMS planning and response to that event and lessons learned. Two additional resources that are available to you to use as text material are one, the First Responder's Critical Incident Field Guide by Red Hat Publishers which does discuss civil unrest planning and response and the book titled When Violence erupts with Jones and Bartlett. Which addresses fire and EMS planning for these type of events. One final resource that is available to your agency in planning and preparation for one of these events, is to reach out to any community in your state or surrounding state that has been in any type of violent protest or civil unrest event. They can provide you a lot of the information they learned and the lessons learned to help you in your planning and preparation. [BLANK_AUDIO]

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