NC FD requests ballistic vests for EMS calls
The Wilmington Fire Department plans to buy 60 vests for firefighter-EMTs responding to shooting or stabbing incidents
Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.
WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Wilmington Fire Department is requesting $12,800 from city council to purchase ballistic vests.
An agreement with the Wilmington Police Department, New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and local emergency medical technicians (EMTs) requires each entity to acquire vests for their employees.
"Back in 2015, a policy was adopted in the department," said WFD spokeswoman Natosha Tew. "The multi-agency high threats response plan identified the need of bulletproof vests."
Deputy Chief Jon Mason said the vests are "strictly for EMS or medical assistance to a shooting or a stabbing incident."
All firefighters are EMTs, said Mason, "so we've been responding to gunshot calls, shooting and stabbing accidents."
According to Tew, fire departments across the country have been taking this step in recent years in light of recent events.
"In an active school-shooter situation, we would be responding," Tew said.
Mason echoed this, emphasizing that EMTs are sometimes placed in dangerous situations.
"Often times we're the first arriving on scene," he said.
Julian March, a spokesman for the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, said ballistic vests are issued to each EMS unit.
"EMS procedure says a vest should be worn when there is an increased risk of firearm violence," he wrote in an email. "This could include responding to a potentially high-risk situation, such as scenes involving reported shooting or domestic violence."
Mason said the WFD will buy 60 vests to cover each employee on a given shift.
"Police officers have a softer type vests to wear underneath their uniform," he said. "Our's would be a plate carrier, heavy over top of uniform, which would be clearly marked fire and have a different color.
Mason said the vests could "stop handgun ammunition and take a rifle round."
The budget item was recommended at Wilmington City Council's May 12 meeting. Council will vote on a proposed 2020-21 budget on June 16.
©2020 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)