Due to the need to protect Delaware County Emergency Medical Services’ first responders, commissioners voted on Monday to approve an allocation of $54,144 for the purchase of 96 new ballistic vests.
EMS Chief Mike Schuiling said, “With everything that is going on across the country, there is no doubt that first responders face unknown threats on every call.” He went on to add, “If anyone had asked me two decades ago if I thought we’d ever need body armor to do our job, I would have said, ‘not in our community.’”
According to Schuiling, the body armor being worn now by our first responders was bought in 2001 with money awarded through a grant. Since then he has tried unsuccessfully through a number of sources to secure additional funds to help with the cost to replace the old vests.
“We’ve been repeatedly denied since this has become such a huge issue nationwide,” he said. “Therefore, we have no choice but to ask you to allocate the funds to purchase much needed body armor to protect the lives of our first responders.”
Schuiling went on to say that although new body armor had been in the budget for the past 3 years, it ended up being cut in favor of what was then seen as more pressing projects. He explained to commissioners how hard he and deputy county administrator, Si Kille, had been working on making the purchase. He said that he hopes that compromises can be reached on other projects to help offset this immediate expense.
“However, the events of last month have raised serious safety concerns. There was the horrific police officer shooting, plus three protective vests were damaged while they were being put on,” he said. “There is no doubt that as these vests continue to fail, our first responders are at increased risk. We’ve done everything we can think of to remedy the situation with no luck. This is why we are turning to you for the supplemental allocation.”
Regarding the police shooting, Schuiling was speaking about Westerville officers Anthony Morelli, 54 and Eric Joering, 39. Both were tragically killed February 10th in the line of duty. Delaware County EMS Station 7 was first on the scene.
Commissioner Barbara Lewis said, “Unfortunately, this expenditure is clearly a necessity.”
Schuiling said that when body armor is simply put away and stored it can last up to 10 years, but if worn on a continual basis it’s only good for five years. The 96 new vests will be come from Phoenix Safety Outfitters via a purchasing program set up with the State of Ohio.
The body armor being purchased will be Level IIIA in terms of protection, which means it will stop rounds from most handguns.