Gilbertsville Area Community Ambulance Service employee Richard Lopez (at top, left), and Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue Company Deputy Fire Chief Andrew Duncan (right), joined ambulance Chief of Operations Garry Schmoltze (center) to display ballistic vests
GILBERTSVILLE PA – A $5,000 grant awarded by the Berks County Community Foundation is being used by the Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue Company, and Gilbertsville Area Community Ambulance Service, to make a purchase neither organization thought they would ever need.
The two groups, dedicated to protecting the safety and lives of area residents, are spending the money to buy eight ballistic, or bullet-resistant, vests. They hope to keep their emergency responders from being injured in “active shooter or high risk” types of emergencies, the fire company reported on its Facebook page. The grant allows each organization to receive four vests, it said.
The foundation gift is the latest in a string of funding sources the ambulance service and fire company, separately and together, have assembled to fulfill what ambulance crews saw as a critical need as early as three years ago.
“With paramedic and (emergency medical technician) assaults on a sharp rise,” a June 28 news release said, the ambulance service in 2014 “started looking at protecting (its) most valuable asset:” employees.
“Every call we go on is totally different than it was 10 years ago,” fire company Chief Rick Smith later explained. “All emergency responders are potential targets today … It is not our intention to put any of our members in harm’s way, but if the incident arises we can have our members protected as best we can. This will help protect our members not only in an active shooter call, but other domestic calls that we respond to.”
The fire company is buying a total of seven vests, it said, to equip three fire officers and four responders. The ambulance service will similarly outfit its line officers and three full-time paramedics, according to the announcement. Each vest costs about $800.
Ambulance volunteers also have been “actively working on fund-raising activities and events to raise funds with the hope to equip all of their personnel with ballistic vests in the near future,” the release said. With more than 20 part- and full-time personnel in the ambulance service, “this is no small task,” it added.
“It is a very scary time when we need to start preparing, training, and equipping our first responders with ballistic vests in Douglass Township,” Deputy Fire Chief Andrew Duncan said in the announcement, “but we are prepared and ready for any situation” to which volunteers may be called.
Both the fire company and ambulance service expressed thanks and appreciation to the foundation for its financial support.
Photo from Gilbertsville Fire And Rescue via Facebook