PROTECTING FIRST RESPONDERS

When the people who keep the rest of us safe begin to feel threatened, it is time to take action.

That is exactly what two local fire departments have done, providing bulletproof vests for members to use is specific situations.

The Brookside Fire Department recently purchased six bulletproof vests at a cost of $6,000. It is the second department in Belmont County to make such a move — Belmont Volunteer Fire Department was the first, thanks to a grant from the Smith Goshen Rice Energy Fund.

Brookside Fire Chief Allan Ketzell III said he’s glad to have the vests available. He hopes department personnel never need to use them, but he knows that will not be the case. He said members plan to use the vests during calls for any unresponsive person 50 years old or younger; for any type of drug call; when responding to domestic violence calls or reported assaults; or any other situation that a firefighter deems necessary.

“Firefighters have a saying, ‘Everyone comes home,'” Ketzell said. “These vests will allow just that. We don’t want to have to use them, but they will be available if we need them. The vests will provide our firefighters with safety and a better chance to come home.”

Ketzell said there were no specific incidents in Brookside that led to the department purchasing the vests, but that was not the case in Belmont. There, squad Capt. Kaye Hall said, squad members requested such vests immediately after returning to the station from a specific call to assist someone who had overdosed.

“There were a lot of sheriff’s deputies and a lot of civilians in the area,” Hall said. “It was a very tense situation. We felt uncomfortable, and even though we didn’t feel threatened we felt uneasy knowing that something could happen any second.”

Hall said the vests are now on each squad vehicle for use when needed, and they go on any time department members arrive to a call that has law enforcement present. Hall noted that the vests provide extra safety during calls to assist unresponsive individuals, because people sometimes “come up swinging” after being revived from an overdose.

Kudos to both departments — no price is too high to help ensure the safety and well-being of those who strive to keep the rest of us safe every day.

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