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Response to Gunfire

Tue, 4 Mar 2014|

This Firefighters Support Foundation program addresses the types of gunfire events that first responders may find themselves at, what their actions should be to protect themselves, and what to do while waiting for SWAT to arrive on-scene.



[BLANK_AUDIO] I'm here to talk about a variety of situations that can force firefighters, tactical officers, and law enforcement officers into working together at any time. At any time a firefighter, a paramedic, a first responder, can be called to a scene with the potential for an ongoing ballistic threat. The situations may include active shooter situation. This requires an immediate response from all first responders, not just law enforcement, this includes you. This includes you. Officer or citizen down calls. We don't know why they are down, or how they got down, just that you've been called to that scene. And there could be potential danger at that scene. Hostage situations. Yes, law enforcement and SWAT teams get called to handle a hostage situation, but so do fire departments, EMS personnel, the American Red Cross. And many other groups have to come together to ensure an, a good outcome for that event. The first responder who is either arrived on scene or become involved in a critical incident in progress. There are certain tactics, techniques, and procedures that should be considered prior to the arrival of law enforcement officers and more importantly special response teams or tactical teams as they're called. Your actions may prove critical to a peaceful resolution and outcome of this event. Keep in mind that as a firefighter, you might find yourself working in a situation that is considered stable but not secure. A rapid, primary search may have already been conducted by law enforcement, but there is still a potential threat to any person at the scene, including you. As a first responder, we all have obligations when arriving at a scene. It's easy to become overwhelmed by events. But we must prioritize what needs to be accomplished first, based on the circumstance that we're in. For example, an active shooter in a school or business, that requires an immediate response. And an officer, or citizen down, requires a rescue plan, by both law enforcement fire and paramedics. A hostage situation. Immediate containment is the initial responding law enforcement officer goal, but firefighters should formulate a hasty escape plan in case the suspect initiates a deadly assault on any first responders. And firefighters do come under attack. Look what happened last year in New York. Two firefighters were killed, and two more were wounded by gunshots when ambushed by a suspect who intentionally set a fire to lure them to that location. And most recently, in Atlanta, Georgia, four firefighters were taken hostage while responding to a routine call. These are not isolated incidence. Attacks on emergency services personal and firefighters are on the rise. It used to be that everybody loved the firefighter and hated a police officer. But now firefighters are equally viewed as persons of authority. But there are other first responder obligations. As additional resources arrive, a larger parameter may need to be set. This is gonna require collaboration between law enforcement and the fire service. If the call started out initially as a fire call, but gunfire rang out, and law enforcement arrived, they will be interacting with the fire service to push the perimeter out. Possibly park fire trucks in different areas and yet have them remain on scene because they may be needed later. A firefighter supervisor and a law enforcement supervisor need to come together in situations like this to ensure both agency's goals and obligations are being met during this intense situation. And this does not mean that the fire service loses control. I've been on the scene of a major incident involving the shooting death of another law enforcement officer where a battalion fire chief was made the overall scene commander because of his superior working knowledge of the ICS system. Be mindful that these situations can last for many hours. And remember to care for the needs of the personnel involved. Again, in my opinion this is where firefighters are at their best. You'll need to keep everyone at the scene fed, hydrated, have an area to sleep, and an area for rotating personnel to come back to. I would like to cover, though, the types of responses where firefighters might be involved. Barricaded shooting suspects, hostage situations, high risk search warrants, executive and witness protection. And events that require an immediate resource of tactical personnel. But what I find most often, or where I see firefighters most often utilized, is on high risk search warrants involving clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. It's at these laboratories where the fire service and law enforcement always come together. As firefighters and responding paramedics. You might think that you only enter scenes that are completely secure. But look at the pictures. Every single on of you has been there. But what happens if you arrive at a scene and you do come under fire? Well, the first thing you're gonna need to do is seek cover and concealment. And let's look at those actually are. A great definition of cover would be protection from gunfire. It may be brick, stone, walls, a large tree trunk, the engine block of a vehicle. The tires from your own firefighting vehicle. Now this is in contrast to concealment. Concealment is simply anything that hides you from observation by a hostile threat. But it does not necessarily protect you from gunfire. Just because a shooter can't see you, does not mean that he can't hurt you. I think a perfect example of this is. When I've posed the question to firefighters, where would you go if ambushed, many of the respond, I would get up under the fire truck. This isn't a good idea at all, whereas the shooter could easily skip rounds off the pavement and up under the fire truck. So, again just because you can't be seen, doesn't necessarily make you safe. Yeah, that's still better than staying out in the completely open. And when it comes to cover you've got to keep in mind that not all rounds are created equal. What may serve as cover from a 22 or a 9 mm handgun or 38 is not going to serve as cover when up against a rifle. 223 caliber, 308 caliber may be even 50 caliber. Some people do own those and always pick your cover as if your depends on it. Now they are some of you out there go on, well how do I know the difference between a 22, a 9 millimeter or a 308 rifle? Well, many firefighters are hunters and many more firemen are now returning irac and I have gained a stand veterans. Now I would put the obligation on you to help those in your department that don't know the difference, get up to speed on what the difference is. You can also in co-operation with law enforcement. Have a firing range day with them, listen to the difference in these calibers. And look at the difference in the damage that they can do down range. And if you're the police range master, helping conduct this training day with the firefighters. It's my opinion that this training should be conducted not with the firefighter standing next to the shooting officer in hearing protection. But what the firefighter 50 to 100 yards away without hearing protection on so he knows what these rounds are gonna sound like when they're coming at him or being fired around him. I'd like to make it clear, with what I'm about to talk about next, I'm not asking firefighters or paramedics to do law enforcement's job. I'm simply stating what is going to have to happen, and what may have to happen, prior to the arrival of law enforcement, if you're the only first responder there. Any person that you can safely get out of the area, do so immediately. This is something you're already used to doing as a firefighter. If there's a hazmat spill or a train wreck with chemicals on it you don't leave people in the residence, residences in the red or hot zone. And have an understanding that, that ultimately the law enforcement goal is going to be to isolate the threat. So that we can contain, control and neutralize the threat. Create a safety zone for the special response team. Again you as a firefighter or parametic make a mourne scene long before the special response team does. You can look around and see an area that you may wanna hold for that special response team's arrival. But something that I really wanna cover is, if the situation is too dangerous, advise persons to stay inside of their residences, workplace, until the incident is resolved or additional law enforcement personnel have arrived. Here's the thing. You really need to consider a shelter in place plan. Because what happens once you get a cit, citizen out of the residence you own them. You're responsible for their food. You're responsible for their water. You're now responsible for their shelter. And what about their medications, too? How many of them were gonna go into their bathroom, get their heart meds, their blood pressure meds, their diabetes meds? Now they're yours. And sometimes, that's why the best advice can be, shelter in place. Keep them inside, tell them to stay down, and don't necessarily evacuate everyone. It's all situation dependent. What I'm gonna cover next may seem simple. What is a perimeter? What is the exclusion zone in a perimeter? But the more I talk to firefighters, they understand perimeters when it comes to chemical spills and fires. But not necessarily when it comes to gunfire, and that's why I wanna take the time to define a perimeter and an exclusion zone in a shooting situation. A perimeter, a perimeter is simply just a layering of security around an anticipated or surprised target location. To ensure the containment of individuals within that location and the exclusion of other individuals from that location who might present a threat to law enforcement and emergency personnel directly involved in the evolving situation. In other words, nobody's allowed in, and nobody's allowed out. And a lot of times, firefighters are gonna find themselves on that law enforcement perimeter, or at least on the edge of it with their vehicles. And my reason for stating that you might find yourself on the edge of and/or part of a perimeter is actually you do become part of the security of that perimeter. Now you may call out for a law enforcement officer to deal with somebody trying to get into the perimeter, or the media trying to get in and take pictures that they shouldn't take yet, but you still are part of the perimeter. And let me kinda explain what I mean by exclusion. Upon establishing an outer perimeter, no individual be it a suspect, civilian, neighbor, somebody with the media will be allowed into the inner perimeter. And the outer perimeter, which is likely where firefighters and EMS are gonna find themselves. You will be looking outward for threats to the perimeter, versus inward for threats to the perimeter. You'll be looking for distractions, or other people approaching the area of operations where law enforcement is focusing their attention. A very common example of firefighters being used on the perimeter. Is the use of them and their vehicles to completely block roads for law enforcement. Later examples that we'll talk about will be when we actually need firefighters and paramedics to come into the inner perimeter with us to help perform rescue and medical operations on victims. As an SRT commander, I myself have seen and been involved in many situations where I've arrived on scene with absolutely no prior communication with fire and EMS personnel. That are already on scene, and may have been there for hours prior to my arrival. One of the most useful things that you can do for us is picking a suitable staging location for special operations and SWAT units that may be arriving. The staging area is gonna be a location where SRT can safely assemble. Put on their gear and develop a course of action. It's best when the staging area is located within a close proximity to the command post. Location should not be too far from the incident, but not within observation or within the suspect's line of fire. We're the ones he's gonna wanna get the most at this point. Location of the staging area. We must be able to accommodate all of our SRT vehicles. This may include armored vehicles, and in some cases, even rotary wing aircraft. We need to be able to accommodate all the personnel from that team. And then associated additional resources. To include E, EOD and bomb units, and further follow in fire in the MF unit. Outside staging areas can include churches with large parking lots that are within walking distance of the scene. Ro-roughly we need about a quarter to half of a football field to get our vehicles in and be able to maneuver around and be ready to go into the inner perimeter. We've all got to keep the lanes of traffic open. Law enforcement will be working to do this in conjunction with firefighters and paramedics. This comes down to, we need to communicate on scene. Where emergency vehicles need to be parked so that those lanes of traffic that we need are kept clear and open into the inner perimeter. You need to keep a clear path from the staging area to the crisis site. That is extremely important, because things happen on that crisis site. And you've gotta have an immediate response to it. Remember, there's gonna be numerous types of vehicles responding to the same fire. EMS, bomb squad EOD, SRT, utility vehicles, Red Cross vehicles, small kitchen vehicles if the scene goes extended. It may be necessary. To remove or transport injured officers and firefighters from the scene. If the lanes of traffic aren't kept open, we're only keeping our brothers and sisters from being treated as quickly as they can be. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of additional considerations for a ballistic event versus a fire event. When it comes to where vehicles can be parked, we don't want arriving vehicles to park anywhere where they might impede an emergency assault team from going to the crisis point after a shot rings out. Look at this great quote. [BLANK_AUDIO] Next, we are going to talk about physical mental and emotional reactions that we as human beings will face and deal with when subjected to gunfire. As firefighters, you're an extremely easy group to talk about this stuff with. You will already understand most of the things we're going to cover, from your experience in fighting a fire. When we talk about physical, mental, and emotional reactions to gunfire, you will easily be able to compare and contrast these things. With going in and fighting a fire. For those of you in the audience that are extremely experienced firefighters, ten years or more. If you think back to the reactions you had on your first fire, versus the reactions you now have on your 500th fire, you know the exact difference that I'm talking about. First, we'll discuss the parasympathetic nervous system. It takes over when the body is relaxed or when you're sleeping. Your body's going to perform normal bodily functions at normal levels. This includes such things as digesting food. Maintaining regular blood pressure. Your resting heart rate about 60 to 80 beats per minute, depending on the individual. The PNS controls low arousal states. But what we are most concerned with is the sympathetic nervous system. This is what activates under conditions that evoke a stress-induced response. You perceive a threat. Be that a house fire, or gunfire from a house. The body is going to experience that high arousal state that everybody in this audience understands. And once the high arousal state reaches a certain level, it may take on a negative overtone. A point which we would most identify as fear. Fear. I have no doubt that every member of this audience, at one point or another, doing their given duties, has felt fear. Including myself. Fear isn't necessarily a bad thing. Fear is mother nature's way of telling you that your life is in immediate danger, and that you better do something to save it. Fear brings about a chemically altered state that gives you an extra survival edge. So again, fear isn't bad. Fear can be used to your advantage, as long as it doesn't completely overtake you. These natural changes are gonna compel you to instinctively and without any hesitation, do one of three things to preserve your own life, flight, fight, or simply freeze in place. We're talking about fear because fear is definitely something that you may feel. Intensely, if you come under gunfire. If you're that firefighter with ten years of experience, you absolutely don't feel the same fear you did the first time you went in and fought a fire. But you may feel that amount of fear and anxiety the first time you come under gunfire. Think back to that first fire, just for a minute. Think back to that first fire you went to and some of the physical changes you know you felt when you went there. Your heart rate increases, the tensing in your muscles, trembling, rapid, shallow breathing. You can get dizziness, nausea, a gut wrenching knot. You can begin to sweat. Get dry mouth, goose bumps, tingling sensation in the limbs or face, insensitive to any pain, jumpy or easily startled. You may have an urge to urinate or an urge to defecate. But through experience as a firefighter and gone through to multiple fires, it isn't that these things aren't in you. You've learned to control them through your own mental conditioning and experience. And ultimately, the goal of this program is to help you achieve a state where if under gunfire. You can react the very same way you do to a fire, with some experience and some training. As our thought for the day, no man fears to do that which he knows he does well. It's like a firefighter fighting a fire versus a firefighter pinned down by gunfire. But with periodic training, your response to gunfire can be as controlled and reasonable as your response to fighting a fire. This next slide is labeled Perceptual Distortions in Combat. It could very easily be labeled Perceptual Distortions in Fear. These things are nothing that any of you haven't experienced when fighting a fire, going to the scene of your first car accident. Cutting somebody out with the jaws of life. Going to an overturn tanker that could blow up. These are all things you've already experienced. And probably, over the years, learned to control and seen that they've even diminished some. Whereas it says 85% diminished sound. Maybe by year ten in your career it's 45% diminished sound based on your own experiences. But you've got to understand that they can't be controlled completely. Your physiology is simply gonna make some things happen that you can't stop from happening. But what you're gonna learn to do is deal with it and fight through it, which many of you have already done, as I've said. Everything that I've seen tells me that most auditory exclusion, like most tunnel vision, is a matter of cortical perception. The ears still hear and the eyes still see, but they focus on the survival mission. That's what your brain's doing. It wants you to survive. The cortex of the brain is screening out awareness of what it deems insignificant to the goal. Ask many law enforcement officers who've been in shootings, did their ears ring? Or did their ears hurt after they fired their weapon? The answer is gonna be no. Look at this next slide and you can see the effects of increased heart rate. Every one of these effects I can guarantee you you're going to feel. Training can help you overcome some of it, and some of it you're just going to experience. But with training in stress inoculation, and this is something everyone of you've done as a firefighter. Why do you think you put your turn out gear on and run up three story ladders? Why do you think you run across the tops of houses in training or crawl through tunnels with a blacked out SCBA mask? This is all stress inoculation training. You've all done this. There's evidence to indicate that world class experts in top physical condition, under specific controlled situations, can use autopilot and stress inoculation to push the envelope of condition red into the gray zone. Ever one of you's already capable of this. Every one of you in this audience has already been through this stress inoculation training. If you look at the bottom of the slide, stress inoculation training consists basically of three phases, a conceptualization of the stressor, which we've already talked about. I'm under gunfire. Conceptualize that in your head. Think back to movies you have watched. Video games you've played. Start putting that into your head. What it's going to be like to get shot at. Next, is skills acquisition and rehearsal. That's the next thing we're gonna go over in the next portion of this video. What skills do I actually need to have and be able to perform in a gunfire situation where I'm the one being shot at? And then application and follow-through. How do I apply that to my job as a firefighter? When I might come under fire and how do I continue to train or get more training? What does it take to survive? You already knew the three things that were on our slide. Mental preparation. Now, you can do this by visualizing what it's gonna be like to come under fire. Think about movies you've watched, video games you've played. Whatever it takes to get you to that point that you can see yourself under fire. Your physical abilities, don't be one of them firefighters, police officers or paramedics that chain smokes, doesn't eat right and doesn't exercise. That'll almost guarantee you not surviving a situation. And then, your practical skills. And that's what we're going to focus on next. What skill sets do I need to survive under fire? What is it that I need to practice? The purpose of this next section of the lesson plan is probably the most important. Can be the most fun. And it's very simple. To teach you, the first responder, how to move tactically as an individual, and how to move tactically as a team. As a member of a fire department or EMS unit, it is essential that you understand how to move as an individual or as a team member. When moving into an area that poses a threat of possible armed confrontation, requires that all personnel understand how to tactically move and quickly react to a hostile threat. You may actually have to identify, am I in a near ambush? Am I in a far ambush? Am I being ambushed at all? Where or from what direction is the fire coming from? What are my escape routes? Individual movement techniques or IMTs enhance the prospects of survival and completion of the successful mission. Individual movement techniques are basic tactics that are employed at the individual and team level. IMTs are based on the principle of fire and maneuvering. That is, firing and moving, often in pairs, with one member firing to suppress the threat while the other moves either toward the threat or to a more protected position. Now, I understand you're going. I'm a fireman. I don't have a machine gun. I can't do this. I'm going off the principles that we use in the Military and the SWAT operators. But the same principles can work for two unarmed individuals moving as a team from Point A to Point B or. You might find yourself moving from point a to point b while an officer provides cover fire to you. Again, let me reiterate for the comfort of all you battalion fire chiefs. Your men will not be firing at anyone but these techniques can work. For them to maneuver themselves to a more safe and secure defensive position, if they are in fact being fired upon. We're simply going to cover three basic individual movement techniques: the rush, the high crawl and the low crawl. And any one of these techniques. You can easily count on returning Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans, especially infantry men, to help you learn these techniques, and to grade them as they're done at your own fire department, as part of training. The rush. It's the fastest way to move from one position to another. You're gonna individually, you're basically gonna run for three to five seconds in duration, from Point A to Point B, from Point A to Point B, from Point A to Point B. Always try to hit the ground behind cover. There's no point in jumping up and running, just to dive down where there's no cover or concealment. And before you move, pick out your next covered and concealed position. And one final trick. What's the shooter looking at? He's looking at the last place you went down. Roll right two times, or roll left two times, and then pick up and move to your next covered and concealed position. Because he may be covering where you last went down. And keep in mind that cover can be rather small. It could be the curb along a road. [BLANK_AUDIO] A small drainage ditch, a small tree. It's not necessarily always gonna be a good steel mailbox or a vehicle. You may be running from one small point to another till you can get to a great covered position. The high crawl. It allows you to move faster than the low crawl. It gives you a low silhouette, obviously not as low as the low crawl, but you're gonna use it when there's good concealment but hostile fire prevents you from getting up. Now remember, concealment's not covered. Concealment's only hiding you. It's not preventing bullets from hitting you. The low crawl. It gives you the lowest silhouette. You're gonna use this where concealment is very low and hostile fire or observation prevents you from actually physically getting up. You wanna keep your body flat against the ground as you move. Specifically, some of the issues I see with low crawling or observing people do it and grading them as they do it. Is that they tend to get higher and higher as they go along although hostile fire may keep that from happening. But often, the buttocks will start to rise up, and they forget about their feet, as well. They start to push with their feet at an up angle. And, the last place you want to get shot, is in the foot or the heel of your foot, or ankle, where you couldn't get up and run, if you needed to. The following are important considerations when it comes to individual movement techniques. One, do not carry unnecessary equipment. You may initially move with the equipment because it's in your hand, but make a decision as you go along that's best for you. You wanna try to move from one covered position to the, to another. Don't get up and leave cover only to move to a position that has less cover than where you were before. Stop, look, and listen before you move. Am I still being shot at? What is happening around me? Always identify your next position before leaving the current position that you're in. Don't just get up, and move, and have no idea of where you're moving to. Use environmental noises, such as generators, vehicles, trains, aircraft, or wind to conceal your movements from whoever's firing upon you. Another reason you want to listen, just stop, take a second, and listen, is that there may be police officers or other firefighters who aren't in the line of fire that are giving you directions as to which way to go or what to do if you're the one hanging out there under fire. And now, we're going to cover three basic movement formations, the wedge, the file, and the diamond. All right, the wedge. A very simple movement formation and a very good movement formation. Representing law enforcement personnel, I have four circles. One, two, three, and four. With the team leader in the lead. If you look, this is our direction of travel. And in the center, I've got FF. This may be where a firefighter or EMS personnel move with a team of armed law enforcement officers. Up to an area in perhaps a school shooting situation, and you're moving up to the triage area. Again, remember when we talked in the beginning? You may be going into a zone that's stable but not secure. This would be a good formation to do it in. If you look at the next slide you can easily see the shaded sectors of fire that each of the SWAT operators has. You will see that within that wedge formation you are extremely well protected. However you may be saying to yourself, well I'm not protected at the rear or the 6 o'clock of this formation. And we're gonna discuss that as we start to talk about the file and the diamond formation. If you look at our next slide of the actual picture of SWAT operators moving in a wedge formation. You can see even the intimidation factor that they, that may have, on someone that's trying to do you the firefighter or society harm. It actually looks like a larger force than it is. All right, the next thing we're gonna talk about is the team file. Now, the final may be used if you're having to make your way through a wooden section where you can't really be out in that wide wedge. Terrain's gonna dictate the movement formation utilized. You may be going through a tight alleyway. Now, if you'll notice in our file, we're not exactly ducks in a row, one behind the other. You don't want one bullet to take out three people. So you're staggered. This formation also allows for a quick tactical maneuver, protecting the firefighter if you come under fire, where it basically turns into a wedge or an online fire situation. This squad member can go this way online with his team member or team leader. This operator goes this way on line with his team leader and now they can provide cover fire against the direction of fire while the firefighter drops low to the ground and takes cover. And his 6 o'clock is still protected by this SWAT team member. And finally, the diamond formation. Now look at our diamond formation on our board. You've got a diamond formation and this is our direction of travel. There are several good and unique things about the diamond formation. One, the firefighter is afforded 360 degree protection by this formation. The other thing that's unique about it is it can change directions at any time without changing positions. If this is our direction of travel, and now we have to turn around and go to the right. Everybody simply turns 90 degrees. Now you head that direction. You're still in the same diamond formation. If you come under fire for any direction you can come up on line this way. You can come up on line this way. And all the way around in a 360 degree circle. This is probably one of the best formations. For moving somebody that's not armed in a tactical situation. All three of these movement formations have their place in a tactical operation. The SWAT team leader, or law enforcement team leader that's moving the non-law enforcement personnel will be able to make a decision as to what formation fits the situation best. Again, terrain and hostile fire may be what dictates the movement formation that you're put in. It may seem initially complicated to move as a part of one of these formations. But it really isn't. These have been chosen due to their simplicity, and ease of use by the operators, and I've actually trained hundreds of firefighters and EMS in active shooter responses to move in these formations. And most of 'em have shown very little difficulty in doing it. And now some important points to go over for reacting to hostile fire. A quick decision is necessary in order to reduce the teams exposure to potentially lethal fire from a hostile threat. In other words, if you're there and you're in charge. You need to make a decision and make it quickly. Hesitation will get someone killed. If you are taking accurate and direct fire and by accurate fire, I mean those rounds are coming very close to you. You know that the shooter knows your location, you must immediately locate the source of the fire and move to protect yourself and other team members. And you may not be able to find the source of the fire but what you do need to do is find cover from the fire. Once any member of the team is able to locate where the fire is coming from and identify it, they need to announce that location to the rest of the team. If you think back to what I said earlier about stopping and listening for a second, this is one of the reasons. Stop and listen. You might find out where that fire's coming from based on other people telling you where it's coming from. If forced to move as a group, the team leader, squad leader. Fire Truck Captain, Sargeant, whoever's in charge, is gonna make the decision whether to stay in location at cover, such as a fire truck, or to move. The team and squad leader's decision will be determined by the severity of the situation. Just remember, that the more severe the situation,. The greater risk you might need to take in moving away from that situation. In conclusion, individual movement techniques can be practised by yourself at the fire station. Hopefully, with combat experienced firemen. Being used as graders. Get together with SWAT teams within your municipality to practice moving in formation with them. Prior to coming upon a real incident where you have to do it under fire. Believe me, the local SWAT team commanders will appreciate the interest you're showing in doing this. [BLANK_AUDIO]

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