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Jacksonville firefighters research bulletproof vests

JFRD says no plans to buy vests right now, just doing research for future

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Could local firefighters soon have bulletproof vests?

That’s the question many are asking after some Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department stations have been testing the vests out.

While there’s no plan to get them just yet, fire leaders said that they could be used during dangerous active-shooter situations.

Firefighters typically respond to fires, medical emergencies and car crashes, but there’s potential for them to be in the line of fire themselves. And some say they need more protection.

Active-shooter situations have become an all too common reality in America, and agencies are planning for the worst.

The National Fire Protection Association is considering adopting nationwide protocol for fire departments that could include outfitting firefighters with bulletproof vests.

“We're just beginning slowly but surely to educate ourselves,” said Tom Francis, spokesman for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

In Jacksonville, Fire and Rescue leaders are already testing out some vests to see the pros and cons.

“It's nothing more than research that we are performing here,” Francis said. “A comparative analysis between vendors and their specs, so that we have an educated opinion and are not naive as it relates to this particular topic.”

Nothing is set in stone, but the fire union president said he’s all for anything that can help protect the men and women in the department.

“Anything that the department can do to make our firefighters safer, absolutely we are in support of,” Randy Wyse said. “It's just how to use it and what sort of guidelines come with that.”

Wyse said the firefighters wouldn't be wearing these bulletproof vests all the time. Instead, they would have them stored on their trucks and when they get into a difficult or potentially dangerous situation, they would put them on before heading into the action.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, a former police officer, said he has his concerns about that.

“Police will probably like if the firefighters do have bulletproof vests,” Smith said. “That way they can get them in to treat the injured sooner, but still, it may put the firefighters more at risk.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.