NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - North Charleston City Council unanimously approved on Thursday the purchase of 426 body armor vests for the police and fire departments.
Staff with the North Charleston Fire Department requested to purchase 100 body armor kits that can be used in active shooter situations.
This will allow each firefighter to be equipped with a vest during his/her shift.
The North Charleston Police Department also requested to purchase 362 vests. Currently, the department wears a soft body armor, which staff says does not protect officers from the larger and long gun rounds being used in today's criminal world.
The kits would equip all current officers as well as new officers.
The cost for the 462 kits between the fire and police departments would run $236,500.
City staff had recommended the money be appropriated from the General Fund Contingency and or Undesignated Fund Balance in order to purchase the kits from a company in Columbia.
"It's a high graded body armor that is capable of protecting our people from high caliber rifle fire that's been used in many of the active shooter incidents," said North Charleston Fire Chief Greg Bulanow.
Currently firefighters do not wear any sort of protection like vests when it comes to gunfire.
Bulanow said by having this armor it will enhance the capabilities his department can do while responding to potentially deadly situations.
"The main purpose of the body armor is for active shooter response," he said. "It will be available to our personnel for other incidents if deemed appropriate by the incident commander."
"Why not? I mean we've got to try everything," said Elizabeth Watts, of West Ashley. "If it doesn't work then we can at least say we've tried it."
However, not everyone feels these vests are needed right now.
"Maybe in some areas of the country, but not here," said David Priester, of Summerville. "I haven't heard of any shooting at firemen around here. If they want it, let them have it."
Meanwhile Charleston County EMS has been using soft core body armor for several years.
Sergeant Wyatt Tackett said they closely monitor the different situations going on across the country.
"We're always open to improving our program dynamic," he said. "We understood that when initiating the program that we knew it was going to be a dynamic threat. In response we were going to have to have dynamic vest programs so we can keep our people safe and maintain adequate and appropriate equipment and gear."
In July, Charleston City Council gave approval to the purchase of these kits. The Charleston Police Department has ordered 458.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office has purchased 288 of these kits also.