ARMORED FIRE APPARATUS
Robert Tutterow’s April 2013 Keeping It Safe column “Time for Armored Fire Apparatus?” is definitely visionary thinking, especially in these times of scene safety and increasing terrorism in the United States-i.e., incidents like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. However, emergency planners need to be mindful of a fundamental point: Armored vehicles defeat their intended purpose whenever their occupants “surface” themselves like a turtle opening up its shell and sticking out its head, arms, and legs.
Real-world examples include whenever armored car guards exit their cargo compartment, SWAT teams ride on their back steps, and so on. The same vulnerability would apply whenever firefighters exit their cabs or whenever medics exit their patient compartments.
Are armored vehicles viable for firefighting? Yes-if and when designed for rotating deck gun operation like a military tank turret. Examples of this type of apparatus include aircraft fire department foam tenders and European fire engines commonly used to safely quell rioters.
Donald E. White
Alexandria (VA) Volunteer Fire Department
Director of Safety and Security, Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute