I am a full-time firefighter in a small (pop. 23,000) city in the Northeast. Our department provides fire and emergency medical coverage with 3 engines, a tower, and a rescue truck. My engine, staffed with a lieutenant, a driver, and a tailman (me) was dispatched to a fairly common call, a male threatening suicide. We responded to a city-owned apartment building for disabled and elderly tenants, and staged on the street, waiting for word that PD had secured the scene. We monitored the police frequency and heard them request a city housing employee respond to the scene with a master key. Our platoon chief, who was monitoring the call from his vehicle offered our services to access the lock box on the building and deliver our master key. PD agreed, and we retrieved the master key and drove around the building to the entry door we use on our frequent calls to this location. As we came around the corner, we saw six cruisers in the rear parking lot, and at the same time PD called for a signal 1000 (radio silence). Our collective antennae went up at this point, and before our lieutenant could deliver the master key, PD called to dispatch, telling them to advise the fire department to get their truck out of the parking lot immediately, as they are in the danger zone. We moved our truck out of the lot and staged again, further down the street. Not long after that, we were advised by dispatch that the scene was secure and that PD was requesting us. We still had not been advised of the nature of the situation, so we grabbed all our medical gear and headed for the elevator. We met two detctives at the elevator and asked them what was going on. They said they didn’t know any more than we did, they had been requested to respond with a camera. On arrival on the third floor, PD advised us we were not needed, the subject had been successful in the suicide attempt. At that point, we were told that the subject had used a firearm. My lieutenant filed a report to our chief, asking why we had never been infomed of the presence of a firearm at this scene. An investigation showed that even though procedure calls for all information to be shared by PD abd FD, one of the dispatchers made the decision on their own not to notify us about the firearm, citing concerns about people with scanners hearing confidential information over the air. The dispatcher was disciplined, and the policy of full information sharing was reinforced to all personnel.
From now on, we make sure to ask dispatch about the presence of firearms on calls where they may be a possibility. If there is any doubt, we know we can call PD directly on their frequency to verify scene security. Don’t put yourselves in the line of fire if there is any doubt that the scene is safe. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and step on toes, if necessary.