Do Firefighters Need Bulletproof Vests While On Duty?

Do Firefighters Need Bulletproof Vests While On Duty?

There’s never complete safety for first responders in Asbury Park. Robert Fahnholz, the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 384, thinks that bulletproof armor for firefighters should be considered.

“Everyone has to sit down and discuss the best options for city firefighters. The best thing is to stop the shooting,” he said.

City firefighters are growing increasingly worried as the violence continues to surge out of control. It’s not just the lives of fellow firefighters that are at stake, but it's harmless patience that is out there as well.

“They know the drill. It’s nothing new to them. But what could happen is in the back of your mind. It is a concern for them,” said Fahnholz, who was on duty on a day when a shooting call came into the firehouse. These occurrences have altered the way that the first responders work.

“Our chief goes out on shooting calls so there is someone to look over their shoulder while they are treating the patient. They’re all professionals. We all know how to treat as quickly as possible and get out of the area. Scoop it up — and run,” he said.

Two ambulances are staffed 24/7, reports Fire Chief Kevin Keddy. There are firefighters with ambulances on each scene to rush any potentially injured civilians. The first responder’s crew got a shooting call a few days ago and arrived on Mattison Avenue shortly after. MONOC paramedics were also on the scene. Typically our protocol restricts us from going into the hot zone until the scene is secure—which means police are there,” Keddy said.

The fact that these bulletproof vests have to be specially fitted, they will cost as much as $2500. Forty of them are needed, so the price tag for this could get expensive. Keddy wants to make this happen as soon as possible.

“We don’t want to put a price on someone’s safety like that. I’d be all for that, especially in the wake of the shootings, because this year it’s been excessive,” he said.

While 8 of the 17 murders in Monmouth County in 2006 took place in Asbury Park, and 7 of the county's 14 murders in 2007, by 2008 there was only one murder in Asbury Park and five in the whole county. The city's police had added 19 officers since 2003 and expanded its street crime unit. After a spike in gang violence, violent crime had decreased by almost 20% from 2006 to 2008.

As of August 26, 2019, Asbury Park has had 6 homicides; there have also been 17 people non-fatally injured in shooting incidents.