Hoover Fire and paramedics change procedures after shooting

© The Hoover Fire Department is changing its resonse procedures after a man opened fire on rescue workers in December. (

They're often the first to arrive, when you call for help, but paramedics and firefighters are finding themselves in the center of violence - even during simple medical calls. {}Now one local agency is changing how it responds to calls.

It was December when Hoover rescue crews responded to -what seemed to be- a normal medical call, but when they arrived, the man started shooting at them. There were no injuries, but that shooting encouraged crews to reconsider how they respond.{}

When fire trucks roll out, what happens in those next critical minutes means a risk. "It's kind of scary," Rusty Lowe, Hoover Fire Department said. "Who would have ever thought we would see things happen in schools, churches, public buildings? You're not safe anywhere now.""Things do happen here, things could happen here," Captain Jim Coker, Hoover Police said. "Things happened in Connecticut that nobody was expecting. We hope it never happens here, but to counter that we train - and we train a lot."But when a gunman aimed at Hoover firefighters, rescue crews changed how they operate."If things look suspicious or we don't feel good about what we see, we probably are not going to enter until we have police arrive on the scene and clear the scene for us," Lowe said.A new policy that takes valuable minutes..."If we have to wait for several minutes until the scene is clear, it could have detrimental effects on the patient," Lowe said.And waiting in the wings, isn't easy."All of us want to help people and want to get in there as soon as we can," Lowe said. "When we know someone is needing help or someone's house in burning and we're not sure if it's safe to go yet, it raises the stress level and can be very discouraging."While most calls will not require an officer to clear the scene, emergency crews want to make sure the public knows what to do when they call 911. The key is communication to the dispatcher. Answer all questions. {}While you wait, turn on as many lights in the house as you can and have someone meet responders at the door. "You never know," Captain Coker said. "That's one thing about public safety - is that you never know what kind of danger levels you may face on your next call."{}We also spoke with other fire and police departments around our area and many have similar policies. {}Birmingham Police tell us, they {}operate on a case by case basis. If they detect any type of danger, police sweep the scene before rescue crews can go inside.