June 12–Ty Anderson, a paramedic with North Colorado Medical Center, saw trends that worried him. Around the world, it seemed, emergency medical services personnel were being targeted alongside law enforcement in violent attacks.
He hasn’t experienced that kind violence in Greeley, but he was worried enough to buy his own Kevlar vest six years ago. The idea picked up steam. More EMS personnel wanted vests, but it wasn’t going to be cheap.
The North Colorado Medical Center’s volunteer services team raised $44,000 to buy and donate 75 Kevlar vests to Banner’s paramedic services division, bringing the total number to 105 vests.
“It’s not just law enforcement being targeted anymore,” said Troy Osborne, division chief of Banner Health Paramedic Services. “If you’re wearing body armor, there’s less of a chance you’ll have an injury.”
“If we knew when these things were going to happen, we’d be able to stop them. We’ve just go to make sure to protect these guys so they can do their job.
— Troy Osborne, division chief of Banner Health Paramedic Services
Greeley paramedics deal with two common threats to physical safety, Osborne said. Most often, they deal with folks under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The second group is psychiatric patients.
“With the second group, it’s not necessarily their fault,” Osborne said. “Sometimes they’re off their medication or their condition predisposes them to it.”
Because of the close contact EMTs have with patients, paramedics are 14 times more likely to be violently injured than the firefighters they work with.
Osborne said that he believes his employees are safer with the vests.
It took a while for everyone to get used to wearing the vests. Some were hesitant at first.
Luke Rae, a paramedic, said it was a bit of an adjustment at first. They’re not as breathable as normal shirts, but they aren’t too heavy.
“We’re thankful and we appreciate the generosity of the foundation ensuring our safety,” Rae said.
Kimberly Wheelock agreed she felt safer with the vest, even if it did take some time to get used to.
Leslie Gann Exner, director of volunteer services at NCMC, said the decision to buy the vests to keep personnel safe was a no-brainer.
“We’re becoming more and more aware of police officers who are shot on duty,” Gann Exner said. “We’ve heard EMS members were being shot. Moving forward, we want it to be part of the uniform for new hires.”
Since getting the Kevlar vests, no paramedic has been shot at, Osborne said. He wants to keep it that way.
“If we knew when these things were going to happen, we’d be able to stop them,” Osborne said. “We’ve just go to make sure to protect these guys so they can do their job.”
By Kelly Ragan, Greeley Tribune, Colo.
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