HFD, EMS outfit first responders with body armor amid increase in active threat calls

A total of 307 sets were purchased using federal grant money.
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 5:11 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu firefighters were issued bulletproof vests and other protective gear last month so they can move in during active threat situations sooner to treat the wounded.

A total of 307 sets were purchased using federal grant money.

Honolulu EMS purchased about 200 sets last year for their crews.

It’s part of a nationwide trend to keep first responders safe when there is an active threat. “Incidents such as active shooters, edge weapon attacks, vehicles through crowds,” explained HFD Battalion Chief Craig Uchimura.

EMS District Chief Laurie Grace said their crews regularly train with Honolulu police, who will surround medical crews.

“The training has changed because of the increase in shootings across the nation and the fact that someone can bleed out really fast,” Grace said.

In the past, paramedics, EMTs and firefighters would have to wait outside a perimeter if the zone was considered “hot.”

Honolulu police would stop the threat, secure the area, then call for the medical teams after the zone was determined to be “cold.”

The changes mean medical attention will be brought in sooner to zones now defined as “warm.”

“Once they neutralize the suspect, then it becomes a warm zone,” said Uchimura.

But at any point, that can revert back to a hot zone again.

EMS Paramedic Manahel Al-Hozail said the equipment provides a sense of security.

“We need to make sure that we are safe in order to provide medical care to the public,” Al-Hozail said.

Jared Tanouye, another Honolulu EMS district chief, has already worn the gear when responding to calls.

“When we put these on we’re expecting trauma patients,” Tanouye said.

In January 2020, Honolulu firefighters moved in on a dangerous situation when a man on Hibiscus Drive fatally shot two Honolulu police officers, killed his landlord and then started a fire that raged for several minutes before killing himself.

The firefighters didn’t have the protective equipment but had already been introduced to the quicker access protocols for a warm zone.

“The suspect used fire as a weapon,” Uchimura said. “We weren’t able to immediately go in because the suspects location was unknown. But once it was deemed a ‘warm’ zone, we were able to go.”

HFD started fighting the fire with HPD officers surrounding them to help protect the firefighters.

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