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Area fire departments add body armor for protection

As violent calls increase for firefighters and paramedics, more jurisdictions are beginning to add an extra level of protection.

Departments in Clayton, Vandalia, and Harrison Township have begun equipping crews with body armor to protect responding units into potentially dangerous scenes.

Battalion Chief Sean McNeil with the Harrison Township Fire Department said about a fourth of the department has vests available to them, and have been helpful on more than one occasion.

“We’ve actually had instances where we’ve been treating a patient and the actual shooter was in crowd near the medic unit,” McNeil said.

McNeil adds other national stories have shown needs for protection for first responders.

“It happened in Florida, where police officers at a house on fire engaged the gunman with the fire department in the middle of it,” he said.

Full-time firefighters in Harrison Township are permitted to use uniform allowance to buy body armor, but are typically only used in high-risk situations like shootings or stabbings.

Vandalia fire officials said they’ve been proactive with firefighter safety by purchasing vests in 2013 for every paramedic unit and first responding command vehicle.

Even with the added protection, McNeil said performance isn’t affected by the body armor.

“It doesn’t really weight that much, it does really get in the way even if I am performing EMS skills,” McNeil said.

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