Over the last ten years, Santa Barbara County has experienced multiple high-profile mass shootings that have sparked a concern for the safety of firefighters present at the scene of the crime. In an attempt to protect front-line responders, the county’s fire department has been included in the Los Angeles Fire Department’s large order of bulletproof vests and protective helmets.
County Fire Captain David Zaniboni says the county will soon purchase 100 bulletproof vests and helmets that will accompany each firefighter on duty. These vests are designed to protect the chest and back areas with metal plates that line the front and backsides of the body.
“Things aren’t like how they were 25 years ago. There have been more and more situations in Santa Barbara that involve active shooters, and that means we have to make sure our firefighters are going to be safe when responding to these kinds of calls,” said Zaniboni.
In 2006, Jennifer San Marco shot and killed six employees at the Storke Road Goleta Post Office, then proceeded to kill her neighbor and herself. In 2014, six people in Isla Vista were killed, three by stabbing and the other four by gunshots.
The fire department is often the first to arrive at the scene of a crime, making it necessary for the firefighters on duty to have access to proper safety attire. According to Zaniboni, all county firefighters have undergone joint training and are required to respond alongside the Sheriff’s department in the case of an emergency in which gunshots have been fired.
In many high-risk situations involving armed suspects, firefighters are required to wait for the “all clear” before they are able to move in safely. With the new protective armor, firefighters will now have the ability to move into a dangerous zone, if necessary, and potentially save lives.
In addition to the protective vests and helmets, County Fire will also purchase 16 new tools called “Jaws of Life” to replace the outdated tools currently in use. Intended to free car crash victims, Jaws of Life help to open up crushed vehicles.