Hillsborough County, Fla. (WFLA)- It looked real. 16 first responder agencies swarmed Pizzo Elementary School, training together to deal with a simulated active shooter situation.
Guns were drawn, police and deputies escorted fire-medics into the school where actors played the roles of victims.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, this replaces the practice of medics waiting until an all-clear is given.
Law enforcement wore ballistic protection, Hillsborough paramedics did not.
“It was and is never our intent to send any type of medical personnel into any type of scene where there is a threat,” Sheriff Chronister explained.
A powerpoint presentation about this plan obtained by 8 On Your Side states, “Hillsborough Fire Rescue personnel will not have ballistic protection.”
Sheriff Chronister contends that is Fire Rescue’s plan, not his.
“Oh, absolutely it’s their decision. I don’t carry that type of influence over Fire Rescue personnel by any means,” the sheriff added.
Meanwhile, Temple Terrace paramedics showed up at this exercise wearing ballistic equipment supplied by the city.
8 On Your Side wanted to know what happens if fire rescue crews refuse to go into an active shooter situation that’s been secured because they don’t have vests and don’t feel safe?
“Every company officer in Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is trained to evaluate a condition where they feel it’s safe for their crew and takes the actions necessary to respond to a call,” Division Chief Robert Collins stated.
Every Fire Rescue department in Pinellas County has ballistic equipment. But not Hillsborough. Why not?
“I know that’s something that interests a lot of people,” Chief Collins explained. “We are exploring that option, we’re doing research on it and when that final decision is made we’re going to make it public.”
The Hillsborough County Firefighters Union told 8 On Your Side in a meeting with Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones this week, the department is looking into purchasing ballistic protection equipment, but more research needs to be completed. Ballistic protection would not arrive in Hillsborough County until at least next year.
If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808.
Contact Steve Andrews at email@example.com