Yellow Breeches EMS officials took what they see as a step toward safety for their crews by recently purchasing bullet-proof vests.
“Our dispatches around here have gotten more and more intense,” Yellow Breeches EMS Chief Robert Weidner said. “We’re getting more overdoses. We’re getting more overdose patients. We’re getting more assault victims. … We want to take step forward and protect ourselves and protect everybody else.”
He said the emergencies his crews get called to can sometimes be unpredictable and volatile.
The department recently purchased 15 ballistic vests. Weidner said that is enough vests for all personnel on Yellow Breeches’ five ambulances.
The vests are rated to withstand most standard handgun ammunition, according to the National Institute of Justice, and cost roughly $200 a piece, or a little more than $3,000 in total.
Yellow Breeches EMS, based at 223 Mill St. in Mount Holly Springs, serves the southern portion of South Middleton, as well as Cooke, Dickinson, Penn and Monroe townships and Mount Holly Springs, according to the organization’s website.
Yellow Breeches received a $1,000 grant from Walmart — which provides funding to community organizations through its Walmart Foundation — to help offset the costs. The company is applying for other grants, including one through Firehouse Subs.
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has provided more than $31 million in equipment, training and support to first-responders, according to the company’s website. A portion the proceeds from all purchases at Firehouse Subs is donated to the foundation.
Weidner said there was no specific incident that spurred the decision to purchase the vests.
But he pointed to situations like in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a country music concert in October.
Nearly 60 people were killed in that shooting, including Bill Wolfe, of Shippensburg.
“It just got to the point where the world’s changing,” Weidner said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Weidner said his staff has been receptive to having the vests, which are worn during most calls at least until the scene is assessed and determined not to be a threat.
He said Yellow Breeches is one of the first departments in the area to purchase and utilize ballistic vests.
“You never know what you’re getting into on a daily basis,” Weidner said. “I’d rather come home to my family at the end of a shift.”