South Bend Fire Department gets green light for bulletproof vests

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The Board of Public Works gave green light Tuesday. That will allow the fire department to join a group that will help them get the equipment. It will give firefighters protection they need if they find themselves in the crosshairs.

Strapping on a bullet proof vest -- a tool that firefighters never had to worry about.It’s becoming the new normal,” said Andrew Myer, EMS assistant chief. “I hate to say that. More fire departments are implementing body armor. I think we are in the middle of the curve. We aren’t the innovators but we aren’t the very last ones either.”
South Bend will get 77 vests -- one for each firefighter on shift. The vests will allow them to be a part of the Rescue Task Force.

“If we have active assailant instances in our jurisdiction, we need to work the police department to get to the victims that are assaulted at the time. So we can get them out immediately to get them to the hospital for medical treatment,” said Myer.It can also save a life when firefighters become the target.

“There are instances in the country where firefighters have been ambushed, that is on our mind. There will be policy and procedures set forth when we get the body armor,” said Myer.

Clay Fire Territory Assistant Chief Jaren Kilian says they got vests in 2018.“Our firefighters certainly feel more confident when they go into those situations knowing they have the protection,” said Jaren Kilian, Clay Township Assistant Chief.

Kilian says they use the vests whenever there's a call that has a known heightened risk.“Situations where there is a domestic disturbance, if there are any kind of suicide calls, if we have a situation where there is a fight that’s taken place or an assailant,” said Kilian.The vests don't change the way fire departments work, but if the day comes.

"We certainly hope and pray that we are never going to be asked to do that. But if we are asked, we are equipped and prepared to do so. That we have done all the work ahead of one of those events to make sure we are prepared on the day it happens,” said Kilian.

Myer says South Bend doesn't have any specifics on what kind of vests they would get or when.