NBC 5 Investigates: DFW Paramedics Consider Bullet Proof Vests for Mass Shootings

DFW departments weighing protection options following Dallas attack

NBC 5 Investigates has uncovered new information about changes local fire departments are making after the ambush on Dallas police nearly two weeks ago that left five dead and nine injured.

Among the many questions up for debate is should first responders like paramedics wear body armor so they can quickly enter a shooting scene.

Gunman Micah Xavier Johnson shot 14 officers: One DART officer, two El Centro College officers and 11 Dallas police officers. At least 10 of the officers were transported to the hospital by police cars and not by ambulance.  The scene was too chaotic for some officers to find ambulances and too dangerous for paramedics to enter.

On police radio during the night of the attack, you can hear officers trying to locate the closest Dallas Fire-Rescue ambulance - one asking, “Is DFR set up somewhere or am I taking this guy to the hospital?”

Many officers opted to go straight to the hospital with their wounded colleagues in the back of the police car.

“You know, obviously that’s a split-second decision that an officer may have to make,” said Dallas police detective, Chris Anderson.

Anderson heard the radio calls that night while in his car near Baylor Medical Center. He drove to the emergency room to alert doctors injured officers were on the way.

“That situation is unfolding so fast we wanted to make sure at least they knew what had happened and what was coming in,” said Anderson.

All of the officers taken to Baylor arrived in police cars.

“We immediately had multiple patients which created some bit of chaos,” Dr. Stephen Burgher, with Baylor Medical Center, told The Dallas Morning News.

The number of patients was unusual but paramedics tell NBC 5 Investigates it’s no surprise to see police take their own to the ER in a crisis.

“It’s human nature, but it’s also part of the rescuer mentality,” MedStar Public Affairs Director Matt Zavadsky.

Fort Worth’s paramedics are already studying the Dallas attack.

“Unfortunately the book is being rewritten because we are already dealing in new environment,” said Zavadsky.

So they are adapting.

At protests in Fort Worth last week, MedStar paramedics embedded with a police tactical team nearby so medics could move in along with responding officers if needed.

“That way you’ve got folks specifically trained to handle the medical situations as close to the hot zone as possible,” said Zavadsky.

MedStar is also considering bulletproof vests in some supervisor’s cars in case paramedics need them in an active shooter situation.

Other cities have gone a step further.  Earlier this year, Cleveland ordered EMT’s to wear body armor on all ambulance calls after an active shooter fired at medics.

Dallas Fire-Rescue told NBC 5 Investigates the department ordered body armor and helmets even before the police ambush. The vests are not available to medics yet. The department is still finalizing a policy on how and when to issue body armor when there’s an active shooter.

"The decision to send medics into a WARM ZONE will involve discussion/feedback or input from law enforcement and the ranking DFR officer," Dallas Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said in an e-mail to NBC 5 Investigates.

Some worry body armor could give a false sense of security and cause medics to take unnecessary risks.

“Every city, every community, every agency is going to make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of their community,” said Zavadsky.

In the most urgent cases, a police car may still be the fastest option.

“Every time we have one of those it gives us the experience to learn something different, learn something better,” said Zavadsky.

There have been reports that some Dallas paramedics rushed into the shooting scene to help, even without bulletproof vests.

Dallas Fire-Rescue has not commented on that yet, they are waiting to hold a news conference in the next couple of weeks to talk more about what they did that night. 

Everyone NBC 5 Investigates spoke with agrees that police and firefighters did everything they could that night still with each major incident department’s conduct after action assessments to get even better if it happens again.

Contact Us