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Calif. county provides body armor for fire, EMS

Officials used a $150,000 grant to purchase 152 ballistic vests for first responders

By Brianna Calix
Merced Sun-Star

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. — Merced County is one of the first in the state to provide ballistics gear to first responders such as firefighters and EMTs, made possible through a grant, officials said Thursday during a news conference.

Merced County recently purchased and distributed 153 ballistics vests and helmets to firefighters and emergency medical technicians who may need the gear when responding to violent incidents, said Mark Lawson, deputy director of Merced County’s Office of Emergency Services.

Firefighters, fire chiefs, Sheriff Vern Warnke and state officials from the Office of Emergency Services gathered for the news conference on Thursday about keeping first responders safe. Officials said Merced County took a progressive approach.

“The threat to our first responders – not only law enforcement, but fire and EMS personnel – is unfortunately great in this day and age,” said Eric Lamoureux, an official with the Governor’s Office.

Earlier this year, fire departments, police departments, ambulance companies, probation and other agencies participated in multi-agency trainings for responding to violent incidents, such as campus shootings. A consultant looked at the county’s response plan and recommended adding the ballistics gear, Lawson said.

County officials then sought funding from Homeland Security, and received a $150,000 grant for the gear.

“It’s a monumental addition to the overall safety and preparedness of our first responders throughout this great county,” Lawson said.

Former Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, who now works for the state Office of Emergency Services, said Merced County is the first in the Central Valley, if not the state, to provide the gear for first responders.

“Public safety and first responders not only deserve this, it is now a necessity,” he said.

Copyright 2016 the Merced Sun-Star

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