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EMS workers in McKees Rocks to get new protective vests

May 27, 2023

By Erika Stanish

June 7, 2022 / 5:38 PM / CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Northwest EMS workers in McKees Rocks will soon be outfitted with a new line of protection when responding to calls.

One hundred and twenty ballistic vests arrived last week for first responders to wear in emergency situations.

"In today's ever-changing world, we have taken steps to ensure our providers are as protected as possible to deal with the dynamic emergency situations they may find themselves in," said Brian O'Connor, assistant chief at Northwest EMS.

Fortunately, he said its EMS providers have never experienced any violence directed toward them while out on a call, but added that they felt the added protection was necessary.

"Over time, there's been an increased trend of violence directed at first responders," he said. "And it's not necessarily the, you know, surge in violent crime. It's just a general uptick in potential just the way society has changed."

O'Connor said his department, which covers a large area from McKees Rocks to Bellevue to North Fayette and the Pittsburgh International Airport, responds to about 20,000 calls a year.

He said first responders never know what they're walking into.

"You could have an elderly person with chest pain, for example," O'Connor said. "You know, their family might be dissatisfied with, not even necessarily the care that you're providing; they might just be upset about something in general, and anything could push them over the edge."

He said the bulletproof vests will add another line of protection for those out on the job.

"They feel good," one EMS worker told KDKA-TV. "They're comfortable. I personally feel pretty safe already."

Each vest weighs between eight and 15 pounds, depending on the size. O'Connor said each vest costs about $500.

"It's a worst-case scenario kind of thing," another EMS worker said. "If we have the means to add another layer of protection, we may as well."

O'Connor said he wants the public to be aware of the vests so there's a clear distinction on who is responding to an emergency.

"We have 'Northwest EMS' on the front and large 'EMS' on the back as well," he said.

Each first responder will have a vest by the end of this week and will be required to wear it on all emergency calls.

Erika is an award-winning investigative journalist who joined KDKA in October of 2021. She is thrilled to be back in her hometown and reporting for the station she grew up watching!

First published on June 7, 2022 / 5:38 PM

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