I’m aware we’re in the midst of high profile presidential politics where seemingly anyone can say anything about anybody, or any subject, with little regard for actual facts. But does that mean that facts no longer matter in everything, including seemingly apolitical news coverage about firefighters?
Before you read another word, please understand the purpose of this article is not to downplay any potential threats to firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. In addition, don’t take anything you read here as expressing an opinion on whether firefighters & EMS crews should wear body armor or how they should handle potentially violent situations. This article is only about the basics of journalism – getting the facts straight.
With that understanding, look at the headline and first two sentences from a news story posted Monday night on the website of KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas:
Did I miss a recent dispatch from FEMA? As a one-man operation, it’s always possible that important news slips by me. But in searching the web, I can’t find anything backing up this vaguely attributed claim that FEMA is “asking firefighters and emergency personnel to wear bulletproof vest (sic).” Please correct me if I’m in error.
The closest thing I can find from FEMA on this topic is from two-years-ago, September 2013. That’s when FEMA issued its “Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department Operational Considerations and Guide for Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Incidents.” In that document there are a number of mentions about the importance of fire departments having proper protective equipment for firefighters involved in these type of incidents. I didn’t see and don’t recall hearing of a blanket request that fire and EMS wear body armor.
Even if someone’s interpretation of that report is the basis for the TV station’s claim, a two-year-old FEMA publication should not be today’s headline.
The article from KXII-TV discusses the current threat environment to firefighters with Denison, Texas Assistant Fire Chief Bill Ray and uses this quote:
“Recently in Missouri, a rookie firefighter showed up with a fire truck to a routine car fire and he was shot and killed in the incident,” Ray said.
Unless I missed another big news story, the only incident I’m aware of that meets this description was the ambush of Firefighter Ryan Hummert of Missouri’s Maplewood Fire Department. But that tragedy was hardly recent. It occurred more than seven-years-ago, in July of 2008.
It’s ultimately the responsibility of the reporter and the TV station to check these facts, report them correctly and use them in a way that doesn’t mislead.
There’s enough real crap out there that there’s no need to hype a news story on the topic of keeping firefighters safe.