Paramedics and firefighters called to the scene of an ongoing threat will soon have half the bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets needed to keep all of them safe, which is more protection than having none at all.
City Council approved a request this week from fire department officials to spend $30,347.80. The funds, what’s left in the fire department’s 2017 capital budget, would buy 28 sets of protective vests and helmets from Blue Line Innovations, LLC. With council not meeting again this year, the purchase was considered and passed the same day.
Steve Kaut, a district chief at the Akron Fire Department, told council’s public safety committee that the vests and helmets are necessary “to meet the emerging threats faced by emergency safety forces during active shooter situations. This equipment will greatly increase the safety of the EMS personnel while allowing them to provide life-saving medical care under adverse and dangerous conditions.”
Afterward, Charles Brown, deputy mayor for public service, recalled an incident in January 2016 when a suspect discharged a firearm into a child’s bedroom in an apartment on East Exchange Street. As police investigated, a fire pushed them out. Firefighters responded to the blaze without knowing if the gunman had fled the scene.
He was apprehended in a vehicle days later, according to court records. But it’s rare cases like that, and the even rarer mass shooting that Akron has so far avoided, that prompted administrators to look into protection for paramedics and firefighters whose quick action, if uninhibited, could save lives.
“I appreciate you looking out for the guys out there on the front lines,” Councilman Bob Hoch told Brown and the fire department officers.
The fire department’s 14 emergency medical service teams, defined as a crew of two to four assigned to an ambulance, will each get two sets of helmets and vests. That means up to two in each unit could arrive on scene without adequate protection in those rare cases.
Kaut said deciding whether the driver stays behind or who wears the available gear “will be something that we work out in our standard operating procedure. But what this does is gets our medical personnel on scene quicker to extract any wounded.”
In the meantime, the fire department is one of 90 applicants requesting grants from the Northern Ohio Golf Charities. Fire officials asked for three times more than previous years and, expecting that the full amount will not met, went ahead with the equipment purchase. Kaut said he hopes the grant will cover the other 28 sets of helmets and vests to fully equip each unit.
Nancy Musci, an administrator with the Northern Ohio Golf Charities, said grant awards from money raised in 2017 would be announced in late January. With $2.5 million in requests and about $1 million to be dispersed from a charity fund, not all applicants will get everything they’re seeking.
In related business, council also approved the year-end purchase of four mobile radios for fire command units. The $15,803.60 in electronics would replace radios that don’t pick up every emergency frequency.