Las Vegas massacre shows need for bulletproof vests for first responders

Las Vegas massacre shows need for bulletproof vests for first responders. (WPEC)

As the gunfire rang out in Las Vegas, firefighter and paramedics rushed through the chaos and into harm’s way to tend to the wounded.

Many were wearing bullet proof vests to protect themselves from gunfire raining down.

CBS 12 wondered about our local first responders.

West Palm Beach Fire Rescue says bulletproof vests are on their wish list. They don’t have them. Getting them costs a small fortune.

“If we have something that happens at one of our events here, we’re gonna be sitting ducks for a lack of a better term, if we don’t have something like that,” said Asst. Chief Brent Bloomfield, West Palm Beach Fire Rescue.

West Palm Beach Fire Rescue says if they had a mass shooting here, they’d have to respond to help the wounded, but they wouldn’t have bulletproof vests on.

This department of more than 200 firefighters and paramedics does not have vests. Because of that, if there was an active shooter situation, they would have to care for the wounded while trying to stay safe and avoid being shot.

“We make every effort to stay safe. We make sure that the police department you know, makes sure that the area is safe before we go in there,” Asst. Chief Bloomfield said.

Asst. Chief Bloomfield says bulletproof vests would be helpful, but like everything else, they cost money, about $1.1 million to get them for the department.

It’s a different story at Delray Beach Fire Rescue, where they got bulletproof vests less than a year ago.

The level 4 vests with heavy plates will stop a bullet fired from an assault rifle or machine gun.

“The type of round that would be fired from say an AR-15, it would stop those rounds,” said Capt. Kevin Saxton, Delray Beach Fire Rescue.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue got 60 bullet proof vests and helmets in December. Saxton says the total cost was about $90, 000. They don’t have enough of them to issue one to each member of the department.

But they keep them on every truck, so that each person has a bulletproof vest to wear.

“If we were to go to a shooting where they don’t know where the shooter is, we would wear them,” Capt. Saxton said.

He says having firefighter and paramedics clad in bulletproof vests is important when every second counts.

“What the vests do is they allow us to go into warm zones, the areas where the victims actually are as soon as they’re secured and get those patients out and stop the bleeding, which is the key. That’s what we want to be able to do, is to get in as quick as we possibly can,” Capt. Saxton said.

West Palm Beach Fire Rescue says they’re waiting to see if they’ll get a federal grant to pay for bulletproof vests.

If not, they hope to include them in next year’s budget. A spokesman for Riviera Beach Fire-Rescue told us they also don’t have bulletproof vests.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue says they do have bulletproof vests for their firefighter-paramedics, similar to the ones issued to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies.

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