Industry News, Major Incidents

Union, Company Unite to Get Ballistic Vests for EMS Workers at RNC

(CLEVELAND)—First responders staffing the Republican National Convention are being even more cautious than usual after several recent mass shootings in the U.S., but paramedics assigned to cover the convention discovered they were among the few public safety professionals not given tactical gear. However, thanks to quick action and cooperation between their union, their employer, and a supplier open on the weekend, all of the medics assigned to the RNC this week are now wearing ballistic vests.

“Our members are providing a critical service to the Cleveland community and the nation. We are pleased that the IAEP and AMR could work together so well on such short notice to give our members the same level of safety that the other first responders have,” said David Holway, national president for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics.

“It was a great joint effort,” said IAEP Local 43 President Steve Caraboolad, who represents over 100 EMS professionals at American Medical Response in the Akron/Canton, Ohio area near Cleveland.

Protecting the Protectors

In preparation for the four-day convention, the city of Cleveland had worked with local, state, and federal agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service, to create a plan for security. An estimated 50,000 people are expected to visit the Cleveland area during the convention and 2,000 sets of riot gear were custom fit for local law enforcement officers.

Caraboolad reported to the first shift for the RNC on Friday, July 15. He said that his coworkers appeared to be the only first responders on-site not equipped with ballistic vests.

Caraboolad worked tirelessly with IAEP National Representative Ken Skaggs and Dick Whipple, district manager for AMR, to find a store that was open and had enough vests in supply. By Saturday, July 16, fourteen vests were delivered from Michigan to the paramedics on duty at the RNC.

“I’d say relieved is a good word to use,” said Caraboolad, when describing the response of his union brothers and sisters. “So far everything is going as planned and we have a great handle on things. It’s running smoothly.”

IAEP members are working in twelve-hour shifts from 7 ambulances, both inside the Quicken Loans Arena and in the surrounding area, which has been busy with protests and crowds.

“Member safety is a top priority,” said Phil Petit, the national director for the IAEP. “The IAEP has historically advocated for the use of ballistic vests for at-risk paramedics and EMTs. Our members face the same risks as other first responders in the heat of the moment, so we’re grateful this all came together.”

The paramedics from Akron and Canton are not the only members of the IAEP union family working at the RNC. Jason Rose, a police officer from Boise, Idaho, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and a national executive board member of the National Association of Government Employees, the parent union of IAEP and IBPO.

“Jason is patrolling the RNC with his police dog, Vegas,” said Jim Farley, IAEP national executive vice president. “Vegas is an explosives detection K9. Jason and our paramedics are on the front lines at a high-risk event, and I would hope people take a moment to appreciate their dedication.”

“With so many mass shootings in such a short time, we’re all tense right now, especially the men and women who have to respond to these dangerous situations,” said President Holway. “The best way to get through that is working together. I’m proud that the IAEP and AMR took that to heart in order to protect the protectors this week.”