Building Security Tips for EMS and Fire Stations

Horrific stories like the ones below, highlight the need for improved security measures and mindset for EMS and fire stations.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 8, 2018 surveillance cameras at a Terrytown fire station (LA) show what appears to be a man enter through a door to the bay area.

The suspect then stole fire equipment and tools.  Prior to fleeing with the property, the suspect was observed grabbing a handgun from his waistband and pointing it at a door where fire personnel were present, possibly after hearing a noise from within the living quarters. Source FOX8,

Watch the disturbing video below:

Speaking on violence in healthcare, across the country, Emily’s story is one I have shared numerous times.  I’m so passionate about it because here was a young female paramedic, brutally attacked at the station… and it was as if nobody really cared. It was barely even considered news, as you will find should you do your own internet search on it.

According to , O’Banion told officers that when she walked into the bay area of the station, Weddle threatened her with a knife and demanded morphine. When she refused to get him the drug, he attacked her.

After the attack, O’Banion staggered outside, leaving a 50-foot blood trail before she made it back into the station. Thompson said. Inside, she collapsed and began having seizures, he said. Berry, who had been asleep, heard a kicking noise and found her, he said.

 Newson6 reported Emily was standing in the ambulance barn, her partner already asleep inside, when she heard a noise, then saw a man she knew well as a morphine addict. “I was so off-guard that just in that freeze for a moment, he was able to come up behind me and stab me right here.” Emily told Allen Weddle that he could have all the morphine he wanted, but when he showed her a gun and threatened to kill her partner, Emily started fighting, before it was over, he’d stabbed her six times. She finally collapsed and went into a seizure, the sound of her foot involuntarily kicking a wall is what woke up her partner and likely saved her life.

The video to the left was shared with me. It is a cell phone recording of the ambulance station’s surveillance footage. It is allegedly of a naked man, with the exception of the blanket he is wrapped in, trying to gain access to the building. I was told there was an all-female crew inside at the time. Thankfully the doors remained secure, and entry wasn’t obtained.

In the video to the right, a man is arrested after a burglary and assault occurring at an EMS station.

Suggestions for improving the security at the station:

  • Bright motion-sensor lights. Criminals are like cockroaches. They scatter when there is bright light. Installing bright motion sensing lights to illuminate not only the entrances to the station but over staff parking areas can be an inexpensive deterrent to would be criminals.
  •  Steel door plates. Commonly seen on the rear doors of business, steel plates to help prevent the prying open of a door will make gaining access more difficult.
  • Security Systems. A professionally installed security system consisting of door alarms, motion sensors, and video surveillance afford warning of possible entrance, giving staff precious moments of awareness, and assist with prosecution after the fact.
  • Door chime. An agency does not have to purchase and install an elaborate alarm system, installing a door chime loud enough to be heard from inside crew quarters, can alert staff to the opening of a door, or movement in an area.
  • Policy in place. Have a policy in place regarding building security. This policy can be official from administration (recommended) and/or personal (best), meaning YOU decide to be more secure about your surroundings. Policy, just like laws, don’t mean protection. A person has to follow the policy in order for it to be effective. Thing is, personal choosing to follow a  solid policy on security,
  • Doors should remain locked at all times. Could the examples above been prevented by having locked doors? That is anybody’s guess. Door locks, for the most part, simply keep honest people honest. If a drug-seeking burglar, has to force open a lock, break a window, or boot the door, to gain entry, the noises created may buy the staff inside precious, decision-making moments-in-time. Prevention is better than a cure. Make the station a hard-target for would-be criminals. Don’t allow propping of doors (dogging them open) ever. A solution is to allocate unit/truck/ambulance and station keys. They are picked up at the start of each shift by all crew members.
  • Consider locks on the doors of sleeping quarters doors. Again, this isn’t as much for protection, as it is for something like the noises one has to make to get into a locked room, to alert a sleeping EMT or medic, something very uncool is happening. A moment in time my friends. A moment in time.

Vehicle break-ins

Several fires stations around the country have reported vehicles damaged, and property stolen from inside of privately owned vehicles (POV). Fire crews have returned from calls for service, only to find their vehicles had been broken into. Even worse, some of the calls they were dispatched to, may have been false-alarms, used to lure the firefighters from the station.

Professional firefighters are known to work on shifts. They are also known to keep a plethora of items I their personal vehicles. This makes them possible targets, as the past has shown, for thieves. Since we all know that vehicle door locks only keep honest people honest, bear in mind, not all vehicle break-ins end with smashed windows. Many thefts from vehicles occur as the dirtbag wobbles through the parking lot lifting door handles. When he finds a door open, he rummages inside and takes items of value.

Quick Tips:

  • Keep items out of sight. Consider purchasing an extra duffle. This way you can still have all the extra stuff you can’t live without, if the need be, and bring stuff inside the station.
  • Lock the doors. It sounds silly, but if yours hands are already full, you are running a little behind, or any of a bazillion reasons to forget to do so, make a habit of double-checking to see if you did in fact, lock the doors.
  • Fenced parking lots are a luxury. But, maybe if videos and stories of the assaults, burglaries and attempted access like the ones above get enough attention, the fencing won’t appear as budget breaking.
  • Signage and lighting. Can’t beat that drum enough.
  • Extra patrol requests. Not sure how it is where you are, but I loved and respected our firefighters when I was a cop. They never had to ask for extra-patrol of their stations. I just did it. I know a bunch of other cops that did too. Hell, if all else fails, dangle the donut off the ladder. They’ll come.

Until next time. #SYWYSO