By Rich Calder
February 4, 2023 9:02am Updated
With attacks against medics surging, the City Council is considering new legislation that would guarantee they have access to body armor vests and yearly self-defense training.
Council Republican Minority Leader Joseph Borelli introduced a pair of bills Thursday aimed at giving much-needed added protection to all city emergency medical services workers. The legislation was also co-sponsored by Council members Kevin Riley (D-Bronx) and Joann Ariola (R-Queens).
The proposed laws — which have early bipartisan support — could help avoid future tragedies like the horrific stabbing death last October of veteran FDNY EMT Capt. Alison Russo-Elling, a 62-year-old grandmother.
“Being an EMT is a dangerous job that has only gotten worse,” Borelli told The Post. “We want to equip them with the tools to keep themselves safe.”
One measure would make it law for the Fire Department to provide emergency medical technicians and other medics with Kevlar vests or another type of bulletproof and stab-proof body armor. The other would mandate FDNY provide them access to yearly self-defense and de-escalation training.
The FDNY currently offers body armor to EMTs on a voluntary basis after they complete academy training, but EMTs have long complained the vests don’t fit right or are too old and no longer effective. The agency also provides EMTs self-defense and de-escalation training — but one time only and not yearly as the legislation proposes, according to the medics.
Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, the union representing more than 4,100 rank-and-file city EMTs and medics, said his members back both bills, but hopes they’ll be updated with language mandating the FDNY replace vests “every five years as manufacturers recommend” because the material deteriorates. He said his assigned vest is 15 years old and that many other members are using vests much older, so “we don’t know if they’ll save our lives.”
Borelli said he’d add language requiring vests be replaced in a timely fashion.
The number of assaults and other attacks on emergency medical service workers more than doubled from 163 in 2018 to 386 in 2021 — evidence that ambulance crews regularly face life-threatening dangers, The Post reported last May.
An FDNY spokeswoman said “as with any proposed legislation, the department will review the bills and work with the councilmembers to improve the safety of our members.”