More Indiana fire departments adding ballistic vests, helmets to their uniforms

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BROWNSBURG, Ind. — The Brownsburg Fire Territory added 30 ballistic vests and helmets to its equipment line-up in recent months.

The equipment purchase wasn’t sparked by any one event. However, Public Information Officer Danny Brock says last year’s riots in downtown Indianapolis and the mass shooting at a FedEx facility earlier this year got the conversation going.

“We have to know that that’s a possibility and you have to expect the unexpected and that’s the case on any call we go on,” Brock said.

Brock says the departments is often times responding to domestic violence incidents or situations that involve a person’s mental health where things could be dangerous for firefighters and paramedics.

“There’s no way to be 100% safe, but we want to give people the chance to be as safe as they can,” Brock said.

Adding ballistic vests to the equipment lineup is not new, but it is becoming more prevalent.

“More often than not for a variety of reasons, and behavior health issues drug abuse issues, people under the influence. We are seeing the violence on us now,” Indiana State Fire Marshal, Joel Thacker, said. “That is something new and something that we need to protect ourselves against.”

Thacker says adding these types of protective equipment has become more prevalent in the last decade with mass shooting and gun violence on the rise.

“More and more departments have been looking at this because of the increase in violence to first responders,” Thacker said. “There are times that we must act immediately and so we need to make sure that we are protected.”

Other departments with similar equipment include Pike Township and Wayne Township.

“It is now just kind of part of the uniform,” Capt. Eric Banister with the Wayne Township Fire Department said. “Fortunately not an everyday event but it’s nice to know if we need it, it’s there.”

Brownsburg says now that they have the vests and helmets they will eventually start doing training with local police. Brock says that training will allow them to respond immediately after police in something like an active shooter situation.

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