A rise in violent assaults against EMS professionals nationwide has one ambulance service in Maine investing in protective gear.
The Winthrop Ambulance Service, which serves seven rural communities in Central Maine, is purchasing bullet proof vests for its crews to wear on calls.
"We're seeing a propensity for more violence, we're certainly seeing more drug-related calls, and we're seeing more calls that involve weapons," said Chief John Dovinsky. "This will be an added level of protection."
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The vests do not resemble tactical gear. Instead, they are an EMS blue color and are made out of different material, allowing EMS to move more freely while working on patients.
Dovinsky said it's a proactive measure to keep his crews safe. They have been trained on active shooter scenarios, respond to calls involving weapons, and are regularly responding to heroin overdose calls.
Dovinsky said someone coming out of a heroin high can become violent and assault EMS.
He said it is common to see EMS crews wearing bullet proof vests in big cities, but it's a newer trend to see small town departments purchasing the gear.
"These are no longer big city problems," he said.
At $600 a vest. the project is expected to cost about $12 thousand. Dovinsky said the ambulance service will receive additional training and could be wearing them by the fall.