New gear, training could help Martinsville firefighters save more lives

New tactical gives firefighters ability to begin treating victims faster

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville firefighters are taking a proactive step to be better prepared for tactical and mass casualty situations.

With their new gear on, Martinsville firefighters may look like they're more suited to be part of a SWAT team operation than to fight fires, but that's the point.

"They are now prepared to go into these types of situations and help the police department," said Martinsville Fire Chief Ted Anderson.

With the new gear, firefighters can now potentially go in to a scene with law enforcement and begin treating victims rather than having to wait for law enforcement to clear the scene of any potential threats.

"Not only do (the bulletproof vests) serve as protection for each of our firefighters, they also serve as carrier devices for our first aid equipment," Anderson explained.

One of the most important pieces of equipment is a tourniquet.

Firefighters say someone with a punctured artery can bleed to death in less than a minute, so being able to go in to a scene sooner could be the difference between life and death for victims.

In addition, the firefighters have also undergone special training to prepare them to use the equipment.

"Training with the gear, it's a difference compared to training with our firefighting gear; training in situations where it's stressful. Everyone says, 'Yeah, it kicked my butt and I'm tired', but they're glad they went through it because now they know, 'Alright, this stuff really works,'" said firefighter Billy Aker.

Firefighters say having the equipment and the training gives them peace of mind should they ever have to respond to something like an active shooter or mass casualty event.

"When we get into the situation, we're pretty much coming in to what we call a warm zone, and that is law enforcement has come in and they've taken care of clearing it but they're bringing us guys in sooner because other victims are bleeding out unfortunately or hemorrhaging," Akers said.

"Plus we're having to escort with law enforcement," Akers continued.

Fire Chief Ted Anderson says he believes the department may be the only one locally that has both the gear and the training.

All told, the fire department has 24 sets of gear, which includes a bulletproof vest, a helmet, and a tourniquet.

Each set costs $1,500.

The money for the gear came from a grant from the state's Aid To Locality fund.

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