By Kathy Walsh
DENVER (CBS4) – More emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics in Northern Colorado may be adding bulletproof vests to their uniforms. UCHealth is exploring purchasing additional vests for first responders employed at Poudre Valley Hospital.
As more criminals take aim at first responders, more first responders are adding the extra layer of protection.
At Denver Health, first responders have had bulletproof equipment for nearly a year. All Denver Health EMTs and paramedics have Kevlar helmets and Kevlar vests that include ceramic plates. The vests are 19 pounds of protection in situations that can weigh heavy on first responders.
“With the ongoing areas of the U.S. which is kind of a small war zone, the Denver Paramedic Division wants to be ready for anything,” said Paramedic Billy Hanley.
The over-the-uniform armor went into service in June 2016, following four months of training with police, SWAT and EMS. Wearing the gear is not mandatory, but it goes out on every shift.
“It’s rare a week goes by one of our paramedics isn’t assaulted in some way,” explained Denver Paramedic Division Chief Gary Bryskiewicz.
On June 28, 2016, the equipment was used when Denver police got a call about an active shooter at the Alliance Center downtown. With police protection, paramedics went in to help victims.
Bryskiewicz said the equipment won’t offer protection in every situation but, “Is it going to increase the chance that they’re going to go home at night? Absolutely.”
Bryskiewicz said the cost for the armor and helmets was around $265,000. Most of the cost was funded through a Homeland Security grant.
“It’s something we hope we don’t need,” said paramedic Hanley, “But we’re glad it’s there.”
Denver paramedics can wear concealed body armor daily, but they need to buy it themselves. Funds from the May 13 Denver Health NightShine Gala will provide micro loans to employees to purchase that safety equipment.