The Edgartown Fire and EMS Departments recently purchased five multihazard vests and five ballistic helmets to better safeguard first responders, according to Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer.
Chief Schaeffer said the vests were secured in response to a changing world where firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics are increasingly threatened by violence.
“The definition of safe is something that our discipline, fire and EMS, needs to address,” he said. “Our perspectives need to change. So in order to do that, equipment like this comes into play.”
The vests have three different levels of protection: National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level One stabbing resistance, which Chief Schaeffer said protects against 36 joules’ worth of slashing or stabbing force. The vests have NIJ Level 3A ballistic protection, which he said can stop a .357 magnum bullet. Last, the vests can be fitted with front and back hard plates, capable of stopping many types of rifle bullets. The plates could be utilized in an active-shooter situation, he noted.
“Bar fights, if people are contentious,” he said of the helmets, “we don’t need one of our providers to take a bottle off the head because somebody’s upset at us providing medical care.” The vests and helmets were paid for through a town warrant article, he said.
Our first responders deserve “to make sound and clear decisions without having to worry about their own protection,” he said.