With the ever-imposing threat of terrorism, it would be a good idea to remind your employees about taking the extra measures to secure your place of work, your vehicles, equipment on the vehicles and any controlled substances. Beyond the misfortune of a terrorist act or attack, it is good practice to protect your assets and equipment from those smart, mischievous persons — both from the public sector and from within the organization — who take advantage when an opportunity arises.

Back in the day, it was commonplace to leave the fire station doors open so the visiting public could come in to admire the apparatus or to educate or inspire young ones about firefighting. It's great to interact with the public. After all, they are the ones paying for the equipment, salaries, stations, etc., with their hard-earned money through the taxes collected.

There is no doubt that when a need arises, the fire station should be a place where someone can go in a time of need, for whatever reason. Unfortunately, the days of the open-door station are gone or should be getting phased out.

I remember our department had received notification that fire stations and/or their vehicles may be targeted by terrorists. One reason was for the station and the personnel inside. The other reason was to steal the apparatus to be used for a nefarious reason since it is a trusted, publicly recognized vehicle.

Immediately, the order was given to close all apparatus doors whenever in or out of quarters. The station was to remain in a secured fashion. Drivers were to stay with their trucks whenever and wherever they were parked, on the scene of a medical emergency, getting maintenance or during routine movements, like getting groceries for the station meals.

If your department resources do not allow this, there must be a way to lock all compartments and cab doors. It does require added responsibility, especially when dealing with a "fleet" of vehicles. However, it is a necessary evil.

Some issues are dealing with lost remotes, assuring that batteries for the remotes can get replaced, and lost/spare keys. Remote access is a must, because when you are dealing with precious seconds and life safety, you will need a fast way to secure all compartments and doors. Having to lock each compartment individually would not be conducive to rapid deployment of equipment, gear and tools.

It would also be advantageous to have a secondary/backup switch located in a secret/inconspicuous place where personnel can open the vehicle in case the remote batteries fail, are inadvertently lost, or the person with remote/key is performing other tasks and access is needed by another crew member.

With EMS vehicles, it is especially important to assure security for several reasons. First, they may be carrying controlled substances on board. Any violation in this category is considered a federal offense, and therefore requires that the location of these controlled substances be secured within a "lockable" compartment.

The state in which I worked required that access required two lockable mechanisms to gain access. In other words, one would be the locked compartment door or apparatus door; the other would be the medical kit case itself or a lockable interior compartment. There had to be two methods used, in sequence, to gain access.

The other reason is that if someone needs to get a "fix" for their addiction, they may opt for just stealing the vehicle and deal with gaining access to the compartments that have the controlled substances later. This may not be the only reason. People do crazy things at times. They may be trying to flee or want to get a joy ride out of it. They may also be under the influence of some mind-altering substance, whether it is alcohol or drugs.

These vehicles carry a lot of expensive equipment and gear. The EMS vehicles have the controlled substances that can be of value to some.

However, the other fire department vehicles carry lots of useful tools and equipment that can be used by laypersons or sold to make a quick dollar. I am talking about power saws, battery-operated tools, hand tools, flashlights, you name it. Desperate needs require desperate actions. This equipment can add up to thousands of dollars.

It is unfortunate to have to take these precautions, but it is necessary for the times we live in. We need to be more diligent and keep our guard up. The main reason is that we need to have our resources available to be able to help those in a time of need. In the big scheme of things, it also helps to reduce costs in the long run.

Most of all, we need to protect our own to assure we make it home to our families. Remain safe!