Target 11 Exclusive: Pittsburgh firefighters begin responding to shooting scenes today

PITTSBURGH — With the recent uptick in violence in the city of Pittsburgh, Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle has learned that the public safety department has made some changes in the response to shootings.

Beginning Monday at 8 a.m., Pittsburgh firefighters will respond to all shootings to assist police and paramedics with victims.

“We have now moved into the unfortunate need for us to respond to shootings, stabbings, violent calls of that nature, to be able to have a quicker response if possible, but if not, to be a force multiplier to assist with our emergency medical services that’s currently going to be on scene. And by the way, our police and EMS who have been doing this for a number of years have done a great job of handling this, but obviously there’s nothing wrong with continuing to provide more resources for the victims to increase their survivability,” said Firefighters Union President Ralph Sicuro.

Last year, firefighters, who are trained in first aid, began responding to shootings involving four or more victims. Over the years, they’ve also responded to mass casualty incidents and serious medical emergencies.

The Department of Public Safety director, Lee Schmidt, said it was an obvious move that will help police and paramedics.

“We’re just using this as an opportunity to utilize those firefighters. We’ve given them some extra training on trauma. They have the equipment they need to respond to these incidents.”

The union that represents Pittsburgh Paramedics declined to comment on the new response plan.

But some paramedics tell Target 11 that with a 96% survival rate for gunshot victims, there’s really no need for additional crew. And they attribute a lot of that success to police who now carry tourniquets and other vital medical supplies that have saved lives.

Some paramedics said they are concerned about that the larger fire trucks could potentially block EMS access to scenes, and they say more people on scene could cause confusion and potentially compromise investigations and possibly even the safety of firefighters.

But the president of the Pittsburgh Firefighters Union dismissed the concerns as growing pains, and said that safety is its top priority.

“Until police have secured the scene no one will enter, but we are equipped with body armor as well, just like EMS, but again this is just a little bit of growing pains that we’ll get through and ultimately I think this will still come out to be an enhancement of the services that’s already been provided to the citizens,” said Sicuro.

Target 11 also spoke with the president of the Pittsburgh Police Officers Union and he indicated that he is very supportive of the help, especially with the recently declining number of police officers.

He said firefighters will add much needed additional resources to the city’s emergency response.

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