New equipment will help keep some mid-state firefighters safer as they face a growing need to protect themselves from violent situations, including an active shooter.
Firefighters with the La Vergne Fire Department will now be wearing ballistic vests and helmets for added protection.
Each fire apparatus will be equipped with bullet-resistant vests, one for every firefighter on board.
The new gear that will keep them safe while they work to help protect you.
The need became clear after two deadly active shooter situations took place less than 2 miles from La Vergne
The mass shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch took one life and wounded 8 others, then the mass shooting at the Antioch Waffle House killed 4 and injured 4 more.
“We are always on heightened alert whether it’s a fire or swift water, this is another type of response that we have to be prepared for, is mass casualty, active shooter events,” said assistance La Vergne Fire Chief Chris Clark.
That’s why La Vergne firefighters will now respond to violence calls equipped with new gear that could save their lives.
“The vests consist of plates that will take a rifle round; they’re bullet resistant,” Clark said. “We also have ballistic helmets in the event that we need to go in and provide rescue during an active shooter situation.”
The ballistic vests look like the fire department’s turn-out gear, so they won’t get confused with police.
They will also be able to leave their medical bags behind.
“The front of the vest will be totally equipped with a large pouch that will have all the tactical medic or the medical type of equipment in it,” said Clark.
Firefighters don’t mind adding an extra 25 pounds of protection.
“Definitely feel a whole lot safer just from the aspect of today’s world of active shooters, you know, this helps protects us and be able to go home every day to our wives and families,” firefighter Matthew Noe said.
“It’s going to be our first line of defense in an active shooter,” added firefighter Houston Russell.
The fire department works closely with La Vergne Police.
Police Chief Mike Walker said if there is an active shooter situation, firemen need to be able to help shooting victims much faster, and at the same time be protected.
“Because it’s been a long time coming,” Walker said. “It’s something that firefighters everywhere across this country need in the worse kind of way because you never know. What seems like it may be a relatively routine minor call that you arrive to, may be somebody calling you there just to have the opportunity for target practice with the first responders that are coming.”
The department purchased 20 vests using a grant from Homeland Security.
The price tag was $18,000.