RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County firefighters are now about to suit up in new equipment to better protect themselves while responding to calls.
New bulletproof vests and helmets were distributed to 17 departments throughout the county.
The vests, which can protect vital organs, weigh roughly 10 pounds. They are significantly lighter than some older versions.
Wake County leaders say the equipment is critical in keeping first responders safe while they're saving others.
"We have got to protect those who protect us," said Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria. "We never want a situation in which a first responder responds to a call not being entirely sure the county had their back and not sure the county did everything that we could to keep them safe."
A report from a few years ago shows the number of non-law enforcement responders assaulted with knives or guns has dramatically increased.
Wake is investing more than a quarter of a million dollars to buy hundreds of bulletproof vests and helmets for firefighters and paramedics to use while on the job.
Garner Fire Chief Matt Poole says it's extremely expensive for an individual department to find funds and purchase these tools on their own.
"We're the capital county - we're one of the busiest counties in the state when it comes to call demand - so this is a great added layer of security moving forward," said Poole. "With today's society and things that occur almost on a daily basis, it's on the front of their (firefighters') mind and so I think this is adding an extra layer of safety for them, certainly some security for them."
Wake County plans on spending an additional $650,000 to order more equipment. Those tools will be distributed in the future.