After yesterday's standoff situation near Atlanta where a man called in an emergency and held several firefighters hostage, we started looking into the dangers first responders face every day. It turns out assaults on the job are not as rare as you'd think.
The fire chief in El Mirage, Howard Munding, also runs Millennium Martial Arts in Peoria. He teaches first responders how to prevent a situation from escalating and what to do if it's too late.
"I did a national survey, more than 50 percent of all firefighters who responded to the survey said they had been assaulted at least once in the performance of their duties," Munding said. That was back in 2006, when Howard says 250 firefighters responded. He said he recently did the survey again with a smaller group, and the results didn't change.
"There's verbal indicators and non-verbal indicators when someone's getting agitated," Munding said, describing what he teaches in the course. "If they're choking you or grabbing you or things like that, we have different, I called them soft, techniques."
"It's a big concern of ours," said Rich Bauer with the United Phoenix Firefighters Association. He said aggressors may struggle with drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness and said firefighters are now trained to de-escalate a situation.
"What we try to do is develop a good body language," Bauer said.
"Looking at actually the stickers on the back of somebody's car can tell a lot about the person we might encounter inside that house," said Colin Williams with the Rural Metro Fire Department. He said they watch each other's backs and have police secure the scene if there's a concern.
"That's what we're there to do, is try to help people at their worst hour," Williams said.
He said a basic knowledge of self-defense could be helpful, and Munding said he often brings his course to the fire academies.
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