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Local EMS squad seeks body armor protection

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Albany/HV: Local EMS squad seeks body armor protection
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Several months after two firefighters were shot and killed in Webster, New York, a local EMS squad is hoping to better protect its members from potentially deadly attacks. YNN's Erin Moran reports.

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – Much like police officers, paramedics often risk danger responding to calls. The leader of a Saratoga County EMS squad is seeking to get his crew the same level of protection.

“It's really a preventative measure more than anything,” said Ray Otten, executive director of the Community Emergency Corps in Ballston Spa. “We hope we never have to use it, but sometimes we do.”

By providing his team with body armor, Otten says more lives could be saved. However, a lack of funds has made that difficult.

“Most of the grants are written so that they are geared towards law enforcement, which we are not part of,” said Otten, who’s seeking to purchase between 15 and 20 bullet and knife-proof vests. “So therefore, we are not eligible for a lot of the grants.”

One member of Otten’s crew purchased his own body armor out of pocket. While he declined an interview, he said the vest gives him peace of mind that he'll get home to his family at the end of his shift.

“By wearing the armor we can maybe go into a little more of a hot scene and administer care that would be life saving as opposed to having to wait until everything is all clear before we can do anything,” Otten said.

The request comes roughly two months after two fire fighters were shot and killed while responding to a fire in Webster, N.Y. Not long after, New York's SAFE Act was passed with a provision that classified killing a responder as first degree murder, elevating the penalty to the same level as murdering a police officer.

“The governor signed the bill and I'm pleased that we're providing that kind of protection to first responders," said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, whose local district includes Webster.

Otten is still searching for other ways to come up with the $10,000 necessary to purchase the vests, a small price to pay to keep his crew out of harm's way.

“I want my folks to be able to go home at night,” Otten said. “I want them to be safe in whatever the call may be. This is just another level of protection for our responders and I think they earned that.”

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