Fire medics will get new ballistic helmets, vests
PALM BEACH GARDENS — As Palm Beach Gardens officials lamented their inability to take steps to prevent another mass shooting, they moved to protect paramedics who are at risk of danger as they treat the wounded in such scenarios.
City Council voted this month to spend $87,465 to outfit firefighter-paramedics with new ballistic helmets and vests because the old ones are reaching the end of their useful lives.
The decision to buy the new vests and helmets came during the same meeting at which officials remembered the 17 victims killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and expressed frustration about their inability to pass local gun control measures.
Palm Beach Gardens fire medics have been wearing ballistic vests for years, for as long as they’ve been training for active-shooter scenarios. The vests do their job of protecting the fire medics, but they are also heavy and designed for police.
The new vests were designed by firefighters. They’re adjustable, so they offer better coverage, Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue spokesman Shon Broedell said. The new equipment will protect against rifle rounds and stabbings, he said.
“They offer more ballistic protection and increased fire rescue visibility,” he said.
The dark blue vests that firefighters wear now make them look like police, so they could easily be mistaken for officers. The new vests are the same color as firefighters’ other gear, so they will be clearly identifiable, Broedell said.
If any fire-medic gets seriously injured, the vests have a handle that can be used to drag him or her to safety.
Each seat on a firetruck or ambulance will have a vest and helmet, Broedell said.
Officials voted unanimously to approve buying the replacement gear, which was on the consent agenda, a list of items council usually deals with in a single vote. There was no discussion.
Other local fire medics are outfitted with similar equipment. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, which covers 19 municipalities plus unincorporated pockets, has ballistic vests on all supervisory vehicles to be issued as needed, said Capt. Albert Borroto. The vests are similar to what Palm Beach County Sheriff ’s Office deputies wear, he said.
Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Chief Glenn Joseph said firefighters in his department have had ballistic vests for many years.
Each of Delray Beach’s units is equipped with ballistic vests and helmets for the firefighters assigned to them, fire rescue spokesman Capt. Kevin Saxton said.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office, which oversees that county’s Fire Rescue & Emergency Services Department, said it provided fire rescue personnel with body armor and ballistic helmets in January so that rescuers could enter active-killer situations quicker than they could without the gear.