Wake County investing $250K for hundreds of bulletproof vests, helmets to protect first responders

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Monday, July 17, 2023
Wake firefighters, EMS getting bulletproof vest and helmets
Wake County is investing $250,000 to buy bullet proof vests, as well as helmets, for firefighters and paramedics to use while on the job.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County is investing $250,000 to buy bulletproof vests, as well as helmets, for firefighters and paramedics to use while on the job.

In the next 30 days, Wake County officials will order 240 vests and helmets.

"We feel like it's the right thing to do with the national trends and the numbers that you see with mass shootings, whether they're related to a school or a domestic call or anything else," said Wake County Fire Services and Emergency Management Director Darrell Alford.

Garner Fire Department already has some of these tools.

Several years ago, the department made a decision that first responders needed extra protection, so they could stay safe while helping to save others.

A community fundraiser was held and enough money came in to purchase four ballistic bulletproof vests as well as helmets.

"It's absolutely necessary. You know firefighting equipment has evolved over the last few decades this is just another piece of the equipment. It's a tool in their tool box," said Garner Fire Chief Brian Poole.

Garner firefighters have been rotating the vests upon staff, but will receive additional equipment when Wake expands the program.

The new vests will be lighter than older versions. They will weigh roughly 8 pounds but still have the metal that could protect a first responder's vital organs from a high powered rifle.

"This one is rated for rifle capacity," said Poole, which shows one of his vests. "There's basically plates and that's what stops the bullet."

ABC11 did ask if there are any liability concerns if something were to happen.

"I think it's an extra layer of protection. It's something that we didn't have. I think we're actually more liable if we don't," said Alford.

"I think an active shooter situation is not if, it's a when now," said Poole.

There will be some basic training once the vests come in. Wake County hopes to have first responders out in the field wearing them in the fall.