Ohio fire dept. buys ballistic vests for firefighters

There are currently 10 employees with the department that are trained as tactical paramedics

By Frank Lewis
The Portsmouth Daily Times

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Media outlet The Blaze out of Maryland recently carried the following headline: “One Firefighter Killed, Another Injured When Man Opens Fire As They Respond to Call.” That may be the new reality in our world.

“Increasingly firefighters are finding themselves in more and more violent situations,” Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison said. “I see on the news every so often where firefighters pull up to a fire and someone is shooting at them.”

Raison said his department recently purchased 10 new bullet-proof vests.

“We bought them just out of the budget this year,” Raison said. “They were about $300 apiece.”

The PFD recently underwent tactical medic program, which replaced the former policy of waiting for law enforcement to clear a scene before going in, with the new policy of going directly into the scene to help fallen officers. They now going into the situation armed.

“Our world is becoming increasingly violent,” Raison said. “We felt like we really needed to be prepared for situations like that.”

Raison said the city of Cincinnati is in the process of buying vests for all of their firefighters for the same reason.

“You just see it repeated over and over again across the country,” Raison said. “It’s unfortunate to be sure and it’s kind of a sad commentary on the world we live in today.”

Raison says it is a new phenomenon in his world.

“I certainly never would have thought 26 years ago, when I came on the fire department that we’d be having this discussion today, that the need for bullet-proof vests and the tactical training that we’re doing now would be necessary – but it is,” Raison said.

Raison said there are currently 10 people on the Portsmouth Fire Department that are trained as tactical medics, and they already were equipped with body armor.

“Still the potential exists on any given day for an engine company to respond to a situation like that,” Raison said. “So we’re putting them (vests) on the trucks so that those who aren’t tactical medics still have protection should the situation dictate that.”

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