Fire medics will get new bal­lis­tic hel­mets, vests

The Palm Beach Post - - MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS - By Sarah Peters Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Palm Beach Post Staff Writ­ers Alexan­dra Seltzer and Kristina Webb contributed to this re­port.

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.

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