A pair of bills passed by the New York City...

A pair of bills passed by the New York City Council and sparked by the 2022 stabbing death in Queens of Alison Russo, an FDNY paramedic from Huntington, provide protective equipment and safety-related training to department EMTs. Credit: FDNY

EMTs with the FDNY would receive body armor, along with self-defense and de-escalation training, as part of a pair of bills approved by the New York City Council and spurred by the 2022 fatal stabbing of a paramedic from Huntington.

The measures, sponsored by Staten Island GOP Councilman Joseph Borelli and passed unanimously Thursday, come amid a rising number of attacks on EMTs in the city in recent years, officials said.

“These brave men and women put themselves in harm’s way every day to save New Yorkers’ lives,” said Borelli, the council's minority leader. “The least we can do is help protect them so they too can get home safe to their families.”

The first bill requires the FDNY to provide ballistic and stab-resistant vests to EMTs that meet the standards of the National Institute of Justice. 

The second measure requires the FDNY to develop continuing de-escalation and self-defense training courses for employees “to address the unique characteristics and operations of emergency medical services, with a particular focus on violent situations in the context of patient care. Such training shall include, but need not be limited to, recognition and understanding of mental illness and distress, effective communication skills, conflict de-escalation techniques, and self-defense techniques.”

Mayor Eric Adams is expected to sign both.

The two pieces of legislation were written in response to the fatal stabbing of Alison Russo, a 61-year-old FDNY paramedic supervisor from Huntington. On Sept. 29, 2022, Russo, who had worked as an FDNY paramedic for 24 years, was stabbed multiple times in an unprovoked attack near her station in Astoria, Queens. Her alleged attacker, Peter Zisopoulos, 35, of Astoria, was found mentally competent to stand trial for the killing in September.

FDNY data shows there were 363 attacks on emergency medical service workers in 2022, four times the amount compared to 2018.

The FDNY, which supports both bills, said the measures codify existing policies already in place.

For example, the department said it already makes ballistic vests available to EMS members and replacement vests are made available every five years. Self-defense and de-escalation training is also provided to members after they finish at the EMS Academy, officials said.

A City Hall spokesperson said in a statement that the “FDNY EMS is on the front lines every single day delivering vital emergency medical care to New Yorkers, which is why providing them with the protection they need is of paramount importance. While all FDNY EMTs are already provided body armor, we are happy to hear that the City Council supports our efforts.”

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