Southside Fire and EMS exploring carrying concealed guns - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Southside Fire and EMS exploring carrying concealed guns

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Firefighters are known to battle flames, not pack heat, but Southside Fire and EMS is exploring the idea of carrying concealed guns for upper management officers.

The idea already has been met with a wide range of opinions.

On social media, like Facebook, our WTOC pages, including WTOC Don Logana, posters have gone back and forth on the pros and cons of fire officials carrying concealed weapons to fire and EMS calls. 

Even the Savannah Firefighters Union Local 574 weighed in on the issue Thursday, and they are against the idea. 

Southside Fire and EMS already does security detail for Elba Island and security is part of it's line of services, so they have guidelines in place already for guns. The company is also private, and GM and Chief Wesley Meadows says he's not a social media fanatic and hasn't heard any of the concerns or complaints which made WTOC call him in the first place.

He says the main concern and reason for exploring the idea of fire personnel carrying a gun, which he says is not a done deal, is protection and safety of his employees.

"The culture today is much different than it was 20 years ago. You look at the events occurring world wide, especially here in America, you have to do what you can to protect your personnel. If this is something we decide to do we will move forward with it," Chief Meadows told WTOC.

Meadows says the idea is not new but came back up after the recent firefighter shootings and hostage situation in Gwinnett County and deadly firefighter ambush in Rochester, New York last December.  

Southside Fire and EMS has had no injuries and only one altercation in the back of an ambulance, Meadows said, but they are performing what he calls a "swat analysis" as they study safety and security, strengths and weaknesses, and assess which personnel are at risk.

He says most firefighters and ems workers would not be armed, but likely only lieutenants and upper management officials who drive the quick response vehicles to the scenes of fires and EMS alls in case something goes wrong. Meadows says it for the safety of his uniformed and volunteer firefighters and ems workers.

While he says the gun study is in the early stages, and not a done deal, he's not worried with what people are saying on the internet, on the street or at the dinner table.

"There are people on Facebook who say this decision has already been made," WTOC told Chief Meadows.

"Well, they don't know. They really don't. It is something that is really private with us. It is something we will do if we thing it is the best interest," Meadows said.

"But no one will know," WTOC responded.

"No one will know. We would not make it a public announcement. No we would not," he said.

Savannah Firefighters Union Local 574 told WTOC Southside Fire should leave scene and fire protection to the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department. In a statement to WTOC they said: 

Local 574 is committed to the safety of our members and the understanding that scene safety and personal safety on scenes are of the highest priorities. It is our position that scene protection is better served by the police department. SCMPD does a fantastic job of protecting the city's firefighters. The level of training that is provided to the SCMPD, especially with firearms, is unmatched in the area.

Arming firefighters opens a Pandora's box of issues. If the measure is proactive in nature, I would hope that the Rules of Engagement are very clearly defined to help protect the public and employees in  the event of an incident.  

Chief Meadows was very open with WTOC on a matter he made very clear was very private in regards to his employees' safety. A month from now, lieutenants and higher could be carrying guns at Southside and none us will know, unless it leaks out. However, if that happens, some fear that could pose a safety risk to the rest of the department's firefighters and EMS workers who are not armed.

Meadows says the department will continue to research the option until they decide which direction to move in, and make the decision privately.

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