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Wake County EMS to receive 475 bulletproof helmets and vests

May 12, 2023

First responders in Wake County are getting new bulletproof gear.

Wake County EMS Director Chris Colangelo said it will be about three to four months before crews receive their ballistic gear. Wake County EMS is due to receive 475 bulletproof helmets and vests.

"We've seen an increase in those type of events, and we’ve just got to take precautions at this point," Colangelo said.

The county budgeted a little bit less than $1 million for the new gear out of its $1.8 billion budget.

Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said it is one of the hidden costs of gun violence.

"It's a sign of the times, unfortunately, but ultimately it's warranted," Calabria said. "It's, we think, appropriate to keep folks safe, and we got to support folks who support us, and we [have] to protect those who protect us."

Wake County paramedic Ben Rothermel was shot two years ago while responding to a Juneteenth celebration at Roberts Park.

"We all heart bullets whistling by," Rothermel said in June 2021. "There was a playground nearby, and we could hear bullets ringing off the playground equipment."

Colangelo said the new vests will protect against handguns and attempted stabbings.

"If we're on the scene and somebody has a knife, it gives us a little bit of protection," Colangelo said. "It also protects us from blunt trauma."

Colangelo said Wake County EMS is working out a policy as to which emergency calls necessitate a vest.

"We're going to start with they should wear it on everything," he said.

The Garner Fire Department already has four vests, and it will receive another 26 with the new funding.

"To know that we have this equipment on every staffed unit, it helps me sleep better, and I hope it helps them as well," said Garner Fire Chief Matt Poole.

Durham County EMS has had the protective vests for years, according to Colangelo.

"It allows them a certain level of comfort so they can concentrate on what they need to be doing," Colangelo said, "the way of taking care of patients rather than worry about their immediate safety."

Calabria echoed Colangelo's sentiments.

"We want to make sure that they have all the protective tools available to them so they can be as safe as they can," Calabria said.