SPOKANE, Wash. -

The Spokane Fire Department has started purchasing ballistic helmets and vests to help first responders be more prepared if they ever have to respond to worst case scenario like a mass shooting where they might need to rescue victims in the line of fire.

Our firefighters have realized in the event of a mass shooting they have to go inside a school or shopping mall and start treating their patients even if the gunman is still unaccounted for.

This represents a major shift in fire department policy. After too many people bled to death during the shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Spokane firefighters are gearing up to respond to gunshot wound patients a lot more aggressively.

"We've learned that time is really critical and the traditional way that we responded meant that we had to waste time outside," Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

So now, even if there are shots still ringing out, firefighters are ready to travel with their police escorts inside the shooting scene to reach their patients.

"With the police being able to escort the fire and EMS into the scene where it's clear but not necessarily secure they're able to evacuate the wound and eliminate a lot of preventable deaths," Spokane Police Officer Jay Kerkamp said.

In another change for firefighters they have to be able to evacuate patients without the benefit of cumbersome gurneys. So in the back of their ballistic vests there's a drag chute that works just like it sounds.

"We're trying to improve the system with the resources that we have which includes grant funding and a whole lot of dedicated firefighters who volunteered for this training," Schaeffer said.

Those firefighters who volunteered for this potentially dangerous duty have even been out to the police training center for live-fire exercises including training on cover and concealment.