Mo. ambulance agency to purchase body armor

Chief: “It’s gotten to the point” where protective vests are necessary

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The Marion County Ambulance District has decided to outfit its paramedics and EMTs with body armor.

In the wake of police shootings, the District Chief John Nemes noted protecting employees from active shooters is something he must now consider.

"But it's gotten to the point now where people no longer look at us as separate," Nemes told the Herald Whig. "They sometimes think public service as a whole — police or fire or EMS — are all there to work against them."

Although the agency won’t require its employees to wear the vests, they will be given the option to do so.

“We’re going to open it up to everyone,” Nemes told the Herald Whig. “Our employees are our most valuable asset, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep them as safe as we can… But if they don’t want to, that’s their choice. We don’t want to force it on them, but we want them to have the most protection they can have.”

The agency’s 38 full-time employees will receive protective vests. The chief said the total cost for the gear could be around $18,000. The vests will be “really low-profile,” and could be worn under uniforms, Nemes said.

"A lot of us have had things happen where we were faced with a violent situation," Nemes said. "I've had knives pulled on me, ball bats, and bricks thrown at me. We don't see a lot of it, but we do see it."

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