BROWARD COUNTY, FL. — Broward County’s firefighter-paramedics will be getting new protection — body armor vests and helmets — for when they’re assisting victims in incidents involving guns or other dangerous weapons.
Officials say this move has resulted from the rise of active shooter and mass casualty cases across the country, including deadly incidents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January and at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year.
According to a report in the SUN SENTINEL, Broward commissioners approved spending $177,000 last week to purchase 176 body armor packages that will equip every front-line fire-rescue vehicle in the department with the vests, which use steel plate inserts in the front and back, and helmets for each crew member on board.
The Orlando and Orange County fire-rescue departments made similar purchases after the Pulse shootings, where 49 people were killed by a gunman in June 2016.
Fort Lauderdale’s fire-rescue department has provided bulletproof body armor and helmets to its crews for about five years, Capt. Greg May said. Firefighters and paramedics are required to wear body armor when responding to a shooting, stabbing or domestic violence incident. The helmets are required when there is an active shooter or active gunfire.
Departments nationwide have either already purchased and deployed similar ballistic body armor, or are considering making the leap.
Broward’s equipment will be paid for through law enforcement trust fund dollars that come from the sale of property seized during the commission of felonies.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a grant program in place to assist departments with the purchase of ballistic body armor (FP-104-010-035-1), although it is not widely recognized. The title is the “Purchase of Ballistic Protective Equipment (BPE) for Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Personnel in Support of Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Incidents (AS/MCIs),” and it has actually been in place and approved since April of 2014, partially with money from the Homeland Security Grant Program.