BALTIMORE (WJZ) — New Baltimore firefighter and medic union demands have placed a harsh spotlight on the security dangers first responders face.
They are threatened, sometimes attacked on the job. It’s becoming so routine, many don’t bother to report it.
And it’s not just here in Baltimore. Earlier this year in New York, a medic and mother of five died after the man who stole her ambulance ran her down with it.
Just days ago, someone shot a firefighter through his helmet in Missouri, and last year, a Prince George’s County firefighter was killed while doing a welfare check.
Studies show there are an estimated 700,000 assaults on firefighters every year.
52 percent of medics report being assaulted on job, and 20 percent say safety is their primary concern.
This is leading to calls for bulletproof vests in Detroit and Lancaster, Ohio. And lawmakers in Texas are discussing arming firefighters with guns.
In Baltimore, the union wants vests, which it estimates will cost $100,000.
Just last weekend, a man shot at a fire commander after a carjacking and crash.
Pieces of the car still sit on MLK Boulevard days later. It’s a visible reminder to firefighters that they need better protection.
Union leaders say there’s been an uptick in incidents since the riots almost two years ago.
The mayor contends violence against firefighters and medics is not increasing, and says protocol calls for them to stay out of violent situations.
“There is a protocol, and perhaps there needs to be more training so they can understand what protocol is,” said Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh.
She has not publicly committed to paying for vests, and notes the city is in contract negotiations with the union right now.