In the interest of protecting the first responders of the Delaware County Emergency Medical Services, commissioners on Monday approved a supplemental appropriation of $54,144.00 for 96 ballistic body armor vest.

“With the things that have taken place across our country, our first responders are at a greater risk,” said EMS Chief Mike Schuiling. “If you had asked me 20 years ago if I’d (ever) be standing before you asking for this protection, I would have said, ‘not in a million years.’”

Schuiling said the body armor currently worn by the county’s first responders was purchased “a great many years ago” with a grant award in 2001. He said his department has tried to secure grants through multiple avenues to help cover the cost.

“We’ve been turned down because nationwide, this is such an issue,” he said. “To that end, we are requesting your approval to purchase the body armor for the first responders of Delaware County EMS.”

Schuiling added the body armor had been budgeted for the last three years only to be cut for other projects that were more pressing at the time. He told commissioners that he had worked closely with Si Kille, deputy county administrator, on the purchase. Schuiling said he is hopeful other concessions can be made throughout the rest of the year to offset the purchase.

“However, with the recent issue we had last month with the police officer shooting, we had three vest that were compromised while the employees were putting them on,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more evident that as this gear fails, it puts our people at a greater risk. We’ve tried every possible solution available, so hence why we’re requesting the supplemental.”

Schuiling was referring to Westerville officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, who were killed in the line of duty on Feb. 10. Delaware County EMS Station 7 responded to the scene of the shooting.

“I think this is very necessary, unfortunately,” said Commissioner Barb Lewis.

Schuiling said body armor has a shelf life of 10 years when stored, but when worn constantly, the life of the body armor is reduced to only five years. The 96 vest will be purchased through State of Ohio’s cooperative purchasing program from Phoenix Safety Outfitters.

The level of protection of the body armor is rated 3A, which Schuiling said will stop most handgun fire and some rifle fire.

By D. Anthony Botkin

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Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.