The Plaquemine Fire Department was presented with ballistic vests for its firefighters from the Elks of Plaquemine Lodge No. 1398.

At the time, Fire Chief Darren Ramirez offered “a sincere thank you” to the lodge members, whom he said contacted him about anything the fire department might need. The Elks present grants to various organizations and contacted Ramirez.

“We have a grant program for first responders and asked me if there was something that we needed,” he said.

“We never thought about it, but whatever you need, we want to help you with the funds,” he was told.

“I’d realized the need since I got here with the times changing,” Ramirez said. “With the schools we have, the kids we have, we needed to better prepare ourselves for active shooter events.”

One piece of equipment, ballistic vests, or bulletproof vests, were outside the scope of what the Fire Department’s budget could handle, so the grant from the Elks was an answer to a prayer.

“When I started here 24 years ago, I’d have never thought in a million years that I’d need to put ballistic vests on firemen,” Ramirez said.

He continued by saying the vests would be useful not only in active shooter situations but in “any incident involving shootings, stabbings and similar events.”

“Anything I can do to protect my firemen, I’m all about it,” Ramirez said.

The ballistic vests are bright red, he said, and labeled in big letters “fire” with pouches on the front and back for extra medical supplies and whatever else firefighters might need in an emergency.

“The pouches will enable my firefighters to be mobile as possible and render care faster,” Ramirez saied.

The vests go along with a coordinated training the firefighters have been performing with the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team.

“They now have a good understanding of what we do and we have a good idea of what they do and how we can work together,” Ramirez said. “It’s very important that we train together so that when we do have a big situation, we’re all on the same page.”

“We’re going to do the best job we can to protect our kids and the citizens of this community and these ballistic vests just give us one more tool to do that with,” he said.