Fire personnel faces a variety of threats on a daily basis. The need for body armor is in part from the changing role and operations of fire personnel during and after an active shooter/multiple casualty industrial incident has been changing for several years. The Fire Services Department Operational Considerations and Guide for Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Incidents describes incorporating tactical medicine into active shooter events.

In addition to debris, heat and explosives – fire fighters are at risk of getting injured by an active shooter and violent encounters. A volunteer firefighter was shot and killed by an Arkansas man when the firefighter responded to an medical emergency call at the man’s home. Other fire crews are routine targeted and attacked when answering calls in Detroit and San Diego, and this includes getting stabbed as well as shot at.

Fire departments are increasingly adopting ballistic vests and tactical helmets to better protect their firefighters. Contrary to the belief that stab vests may inhibit the free movement of fire fighters, they are actually quite thin and lightweight and specifically designed for free movement. Stab vests come in two different protection levels. They range from level 2 to 3, where three provides the highest level of protection. With a higher level of protection, however, the vests also get a little bulkier and harder to wear.

Stab vests come in three different protection levels with a level 3 vest being the highest available option. The higher the level, the more likely it is to protect against an attack with higher force. Every fire fighter should individually decide which level of protection is right for him and his personal situation, while taking into consideration, the fit and mobility achievable when wearing the vests.

Regardless of the level of protection, it is paramount that the armor fits correctly. The carrier should not be too long, too loose or too tight as all of these can leave the wearer exposed to threats and/or obstruct his or her movement. The armor should supplement a fire fighter’s standard uniform, allowing them to fulfill comfortably their working responsibilities.

Another significant benefit of body armor for fire service personnel is heat resistance. Newly developed materials and technologies allow for optimum comfortable temperature for the vest wearer in all conditions and temperatures. CoolMax vests have been specifically produced in order to protect from bullets and blades, using the latest technology to ensure all of our customers are fully protected and safe. With both heat transfer and retention abilities, these vests will adapt against any weather conditions, ensuing that the wearer feels cooler or warmer in order to maximize comfort in all situations.

Fire Departments looking to acquire body armor for their personnel should look at products that have undergone testing following the test procedures contained in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) document, “Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, NIJ Standard–0101.06.”

This is a minimum performance standard developed in collaboration with the Office of Law Enforcement Standards of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. One of the most commonly used levels by fire fighters is Level II as it provides a good balance between blunt trauma protection, versus cost, and thickness/comfort. Classified as soft armor, it provides the wearer with sufficient protection while remaining comfortable and lightweight – the perfect combination for the grueling line of work of fire fighters.