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Ohio FD proactively issues body armor to personnel

While Springfield Fire Rescue Division hasn’t experienced gun violence against its personnel, ballistic vests have been issued for violent calls

By Jessica Orozco
Springfield News-Sun

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Springfield Fire Rescue Division responders will wear ballistic protective vests on calls with the threat of violence in order to protect themselves against guns.

The new policy, implemented this month, follows national safety standards and allows first responders the highest level of protective vest, Asst. Fire Chief Brian Leciejewski said. Firefighters and EMS personnel are required to wear the level IV vests on all calls involving violence, and can wear them on other calls if they so choose.

“It’s becoming a national best practice for EMS agencies and fire agencies to provide ballistic protection,” Leciejewski said.

[RELATED: Why EMS providers need a vest with stab and slash protection]

SFD follows Fire Protection Association and National Fire Protection Association safety standards that are designed “to provide a level of protection to your provider so that they’re safe realistically and driven by national best practices,” Leciejewski said.

While SFD has not experienced gun violence against its responders, it’s a possibility for which the department is now prepared, Leciejewski said.

The fire department has a minimum of 31 responders each day and purchased enough ballistic vests for all responders and an additional person, Leciejewski said.

The vests are blue with bright gold lettering that identifies the wearer as either a firefighter or EMS provider, according to a post on SFD’s Facebook. All firefighters at SFD are also certified EMTs or paramedics.

The vests cost $1,100 each, Leciejewski said, and were obtained through the Greater Miami Valley EMS Council. These provide the highest level of protection possible, meaning they can shield against higher caliber bullets than other vests.

[RELATED: How one EMS agency found its body armor solution]

According to the National Institute of Justice, level IV vests are tested to stop .30 caliber steel core armor-piercing rifle ammunition.

Firefighters and EMS personnel will wear the vests in responding to numerous types of calls, but will not while working in active fires. In these cases, firefighters wear fire personal protective equipment.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 64% of fire department calls are for EMS nationally. Firefighters are injured on the job five times more often than other types of workers, though according to the USFA, there is no “good data” on how often firefighters and EMS personnel are the targets of gun violence.

[RELATED: The rise in EMS assaults and how the industry should handle it]

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