By Seth Daniel
The Chelsea Fire Department union is calling on the City and Fire Chief Len Albanese to immediately outfit the members of its union with ballistic helmets recommended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the wake of the active shooter incident on Warren Avenue.
President Anthony Salvucci said the union, Fire Chief and City Manager Tom Ambrosino have been in discussions over the past several weeks to get funding for the new ballistic helmets, which would have protected the heads of firefighters as they moved in.
So far, Salvucci said the City has deferred on the expense, and want to include it in next year’s budget. According to Salvucci, that is no long acceptable.
“We sat down with Tom and the Chief and they said, ‘When will we ever use this,’” said Salvucci. “Well, here we are two weeks later. At the end of the day, we want what’s best for the community. We’re not looking to stop this or to stop any training or drills, but we want what is best practice. We want the equipment that is recommended by DHS. We’re not opposed to this. This is a very real thing. The world is changing and we want to change with it.”
Already, the City has invested recently in some active shooter training and in ballistic vests, which Chief Albanese said were actually put on the apparatus earlier this month.
The time for those vests was perfect.
“We trained with them through the month of April and put them on the apparatus May 5, and now here we are already using them,” he said, noting that grant money paid for the vests.
The training that was recently engaged in included tactical training to prevent hemorrhage, Warm Zone entry with force protection and command staff coordination.
He said all of those trainings were directly applicable on Monday night.
“Utilizing the training and preparation for Active Shooter incidents, we were able to adapt quickly to this dynamic scene,” he said. “Once the house was heavily involved in fire, our firefighters made a cautious exterior attack, with ballistic protection, under the cover provided by Police and SWAT. The communication between Police and Fire was excellent.”
Salvucci said they agree that the situation played out well, but they also believe that it was a red flag for making sure that the right equipment is in their hands.
He said it would cost about $7,000 to $15,000 to outfit the entire department with ballistic helmets. He pointed to a $34 million Free Cash fund and about $2 million available in the Stabilization Fund.
“When you’re standing next to a SWAT guy and you’re fighting a fire and he’s wearing that helmet, you want to have the same protections that he has in that situation,” he said. “We’re not talking about big money here so I don’t think we should have to wait until the next fiscal budget. You wouldn’t send a firefighter into a burning house with half of his or her equipment.”