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Has anyone out there ever come across weapons while performing your duties? How was it handled? Does your department have a SOP/SOG that deals w/ this issue? On Tuesday, we forced entry into a home and I saw an elderly male lying back in a recliner. He was unresponsive. As I approached him, I realized he was holding a handgun w/ his finger on the trigger pointing away from us. I was only 2-3' away from him when I first saw the weapon. I advised the others behind me he had a gun. I GENTLY pulled the gun from his hand and called for our police to respond. What would you have done? Has anyone ever been in a situation like this? Your replies are appreciated. Thanks!

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Will:

A difficult and dangerous situation. Our department policy has the cops assist us in a forced entry in case the situation you described occurs. It also provides some legal insurance if the occupants challenge the forced entry - we can always blame the cops (just kidding). We usually sent the police in first to clear the rooms and then we would go in. I am not sure of the area where you work, but I worked in a department south of Tacoma WA that everyone owned a gun - a virtual knife and gun club. Even in the small communities I worked, the right to possess a firearm was a very strongly held belief.

As far as a policy, I am sure that there are several good ones that will come your way over the next couple of days. You want to ensure that any policy ensures that SAFETY is priority one – do not get firefighters killed during a forced entry. In training practice your entry procedures; ensure adequate staffing on the response; ensure that the police are involved even though it may mean waiting a couple of extra minutes. You also should include as apart of the policy is the securing of weapons found at the scene and if you are the least bit suspect that your patient may be “packing” a quick overall “pat down” may be in order under the guise of a complete but thorough medical evaluation.

I always believe that RUNNING AWAY is a great policy, especially when faced with someone holding a gun. Your local police can assist in policy development and some training. If you respond in a high hazard area for these types of events, have your department invest in NEW bulletproof vests. DO NOT take hand me downs from your local law enforcement agency. Although well meaning, they are getting rid of them for a reason.
Stay Safe
John....I agree with you and I personally subscribe to the running away policy or "Run Like Hell" It is always best to let the police deal with weapons.....scene safety is first foremost...that ensures our safety.

Stay Safe,
Walter
If you had forced entry because of a fire/smoke suitation, than I would have done exactly what you did. However if it was a forced entry for the police, no smoke or fire where they would need PPE. Then I would have forced the door and then let the police enter and search the house. Just my two cents.
Over the past 18 years of my Law Enforcement career (and 27 years in Fire/Rescue) I researched and presented programs to different occupational groups on workplace violence. During this time I found a substantial increase of on-scene attacks against first responders. I went back approximately 12 years and pulled out related magazine articles, news reports, etc, and I discovered a new trend.

Today Emergency Responders are experiencing a dramatic increase of On-Scene Violence and/or the likelihood of the scene turning from safe to violent (see the Fire Engineering article posted 3/10/09 of the Tulsa, OK FF Attacked). Our job is to help people and our training dictates that. Our Law Enforcement counter-parts expect it and train for it but we need to make this a new subject in our cirriculm.

Others has commented that Law Enforcement should had been involved and they are right. Any time forced entry has to be made in a situation like this, allow them to proceed first and make your scene safe. And of course this needs to be addressed in your SOP/SOG and a good reference would be NFPA. (Some might be surpised that it is covered)

For those that read this post: I have a Violence Awareness & Prevention Program that I instruct. You may contact me for more information at 423-272-2648.
As firearms are a way of life in Wyoming, particularly in southwest Wyoming, we often encounter them during incident response. In our response area in rural Wyoming, we are fortunate to have a good working relationship with law enforcement; at a minimum one Deputy responds. Our normal action upon encountering a firearm is to notify law enforcement at the scene of the presence of all firearms, then assist them in accounting for them, to be held by the Sheriff's Office for pickup by the owner of the residence or vehicle as the case may be.

Concerning the instance mentioned in your post, our response would be to secure the weapon only if it could safely be done - as in the case of your unresponsive patient. It there were any doubt whatsoever concerning the safety of our personnel, we would back out and allow law enforcement to render the scene safe before proceeding.

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