Texas firefighters to purchase body armor

The city council gave the fire department the go-ahead Nov. 8 to apply for a federal grant to buy 14 ballistic vests


By Silvio Panta
Odessa American

ODESSA, Texas — Bulletproof vests are expected to protect firefighters in dangerous situations, an Odessa Fire/Rescue official said Thursday following the department’s application this week for a federal grant that would help cover the purchase of the protective gear.

The Odessa City Council gave the local fire department the go-ahead Nov. 8 to apply for a federal grant through the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to help buy 14 sets of the bulletproof, or ballistic, vests and helmets.

The Odessa Fire Rescue would kick in 10 percent in matching funds for the endeavor that Odessa Fire Assistant Chief of Operations John Alvarez said would go a long way and help in keeping their members safe and out of harm’s way.

Under the 2016 Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant program, the matching grant is designated as 90/10 because of Odessa’s population, which places the project’s total price tag at $30,000. If the city is awarded the grant the federal portion would amount to more than $27,200; the city’s portion would come out to more than $2,700.

The protective gear would be useful in safeguarding firefighter/paramedics who enter “active shooter scenes” where there is gunfire or other hazards while they attempt to revive or save someone, said Alvarez. He pointed out that during the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 there were victims who could’ve been saved during the siege.

Alvarez believes the gear would also go toward reducing deaths and injuries by reducing the risks tied to fire-related incidents or other hazards.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Alvarez said about the need to outfit firefighters with the gear. “Unfortunately, that’s just the society we live in.”

Alvarez said that while the loan has to be first “secured,” departmental guidelines are in place for the proper use of the vests. The “Type 3” protective gear would be part of an ensemble that includes a helmet and a vest that carries a chest, or torso, plate that’s been designed to withstand certain rounds, Alvarez said.

“We have to provide the training,” he said, before adding that it could take two to three months “before they hear something back” from the federal government.

An active scene would require having two law enforcement officials and two Emergency Medical Services technicians, Alvarez said.

Odessa Fire Chief Roger Boyd the protective gear would help protect the fire department’s most valuable asset, the firefighters.

“Protecting that asset is our main goal,” Boyd said. “It would certainly go a long way.”

Copyright 2016 the Odessa American

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