• Firefighters undoubtedly work in very difficult and dangerous environments, and are already outfitted with incredibly protective equipment. However, they are also increasingly called to deal with difficult circumstances of a different kind, with far too many incidents reported of Firefighters being attacked and subjected to violence. There are already some Firefighters choosing to equip themselves with body armor, and even some departments that have made bullet proof vests mandatory. Body armor is more accessible than ever, and manufacturers are creating ever more breathable and unobtrusive vests. However, the decision to wear a vest rests largely with the individual, as only they know if their circumstances require body armor. If they do, it is important to know what protection the vest will offer.

    Body armor is tested and graded according to the ballistic protection it can offer. This grading is undergone in line with the testing done by the US National Institute of Justice, which is widely recognized as the world leader in ballistics testing. The NIJ assigns levels of protection to body armor which outlines exactly what size, speed, and strength of ammunition a vest can stop. There are many different styles of body armor available, but they can be split largely into two categories: ‘Soft Armor’, and ‘Hard Armor’. Soft Armor uses lightweight and flexible materials like Kevlar to provide protection, and is available up to NIJ Level IIIa. Hard Armor will also use fabrics like Kevlar, but with rigid panels of Ceramics and/or Polyethylene over the top, to provide protection up to NIJ Level IV.

    NIJ Level IIa is capable of protecting against 9mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose and .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed ammunition, which are used in the majority of handguns. It is also capable of stopping similar handgun ammunition, such as the 10mm Auto, .357 SIG, and even .45 ACP.

    NIJ Level II armor is capable of protecting against all of the above ammunition, as well as .357 Magnum Jacketed Soft Points and 9mm Parabellum rounds fired at a higher velocity.

    NIJ Level IIIa, the highest level available in Soft Armor, can stop all of the above ammunition, as well as 9mm Parabellum rounds fired from a semi-automatic. It can also protect against .44 Magnum Jacketed Hollow Point rounds.

    NIJ Level III armor can protect against the 7.62x51mm NATO Full Metal Jacketed round, as well as the 5.56x45mm NATO. It can also stop the vast majority of rifle and automatic rounds, such as the .30-06 and the .308 Winchester, as well as all the ammunition listed in the levels above.

    NIJ Level IV is the highest level of protection currently available, and is capable of protecting against all the ammunition outlined above, as well as armor-piercing variants of the 7.62x51mm NATO and 5.56x45mm NATO.

    It is likely that Hard Armor will simply be unnecessary for Firefighters; the extra weight and bulk may actually prove to be a hindrance in the punishing environments they work in. However, for the most extreme threats these armors are unmatched in protection. Whatever the decision, it must reflect the individual’s own preparation and awareness of the situation. For more information on ballistic protection and NIJ Levels, visit the NIJ’s Official Documentation.

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  • Close protection security is a demanding job that requires the Operative to provide a wide range of services for a wide range of clients. Close Protection Operatives will understand that the most important part of the role is preparation, and understanding the potential situations you will find yourself in can make a huge difference. A Security Operative cannot guarantee the protection of his or her client if they cannot guarantee their own protection. There are a number of options available to Close Protection Operatives, and body armor varies depending on the level and type of protection. However, there is also the style of wear that needs to be considered, and both covert and overt armor have their advantages and disadvantages for Close Protection Security.

    What are the Differences Between Covert and Overt Amour?

    Simply put, covert armor refers to bullet and stab resistant vests that can be worn underneath clothing. Conversely, overt armor is worn over clothes, and can form part of a uniform. For Close Protection Security, each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and will be relevant for certain situations.

    Covert Armour

    Close Protection Security largely involves remaining close to client, providing a range of services and ensuring their safety. This can range from simply being present, to driving and escorting them from location to location. It is likely that the client will want the Operative to remain discreet, and the presence of body armor will not achieve this. Nevertheless, protection should not be sacrificed, and so covert vests are required. These can be worn comfortably underneath clothing or a uniform, and are still available in a wide range of protective levels, and can even be outfitted with the highest level protective plates capable of stopping armor-piercing rounds. Covert armor has the benefit of being lightweight and flexible, yet still protective, and some are even manufactured with temperature-regulating technologies designed to keep the wearer cool and draw moisture away from the skin. This means that an Operative can stay protected against firearms, knives, needles and a variety of other weapons, while still retaining the ability to offer a protective yet professional service to the client.

    Overt Armour

    On the other hand,there may be instances where a client wishes for the visible presence of Security; for clients in the public eye, it may be beneficial to have prepared Security Operatives constantly to hand as a deterrent to any potential attackers, or simply as a statement of authority. In these cases it may be that an overt vest is preferred.

    These are available at all levels of protection, and can be equipped to protect against all manner of weapons. They also have the advantage of being customizable with pockets for extra equipment, additional protection for the upper arm or neck for example, and can even have logos, insignia and high-visibility covers added to make them a useful addition to a uniform. This will have the advantage of deterring potential attackers, and displaying an Operative’s preparedness and authority, which may be beneficial for clients who wish to have more ‘active’ Close Protection Security. Of course, some have argued that wearing overt body armor invites attacks and singles out Operatives as potential targets.

    Body armor is not only available in multiple levels of protection but also in covert and overt styles. It is inappropriate to suggest that Close Protection Security Operatives, who work in such potentially dangerous environments, should go without protection. However, a covert or overt vest is not always appropriate for the situation, and so it is important that Operatives can equip themselves with protection that keeps them safe, but also allows them to perform to the best of their ability. Whatever the choice, the options are available to ensure that Operatives remain flexible, comfortable, and, above all, protected.

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  • Security Personnel have to ensure their own safety before they can hope to protect anyone else. Body armor and other forms of protective clothing are vital pieces of equipment for these men and women because of the dangers inherent to their occupation. However, a bullet proof vest, for example, can offer a number of benefits that many are not aware of. It is far easier than ever before to equip yourself with body armor, yet there are still a number of confusing details that can make the decision harder. Therefore, providing insights into what body armor can do and how it should be utilized will help these individuals protect themselves and protect us.

    Protection Levels

    One of the most confusing yet important aspects of body armor is the protection levels it offers, which are largely grouped into different levels. It can be difficult to understand exactly what each of these levels can offer you in terms of protection, yet it is vital that Security Personnel do so. Ballistic protection is tested and graded according to standards set by the National Institute of Justice, and these ‘NIJ Levels’ outline exactly what a bullet proof vest can stop. The testing undergone by the National Institute of Justice is largely considered to be the best in the world, and it is crucial that any body armor meets these standards. The levels set done concern the size and strength of ammunition used in testing; a Level IIa vest, for example, can stop 9mm and .357 rounds, whereas a vest or plate at Level IV (the highest available level) can stop 7.62x51mm NATO rounds, even in the armor-piercing variant. Each level also incorporates all ammunition listed at lower levels, so a Level IV vest can protect against the same threats as a Level IIa. However, this does not meant that Security Personnel should opt for the highest levels available, and instead should select a vest that will be appropriate for the threats they are likely to face. Just as a low level vest will be inadequate in a situation involving high caliber weaponry, for most Security Personnel the weight and bulk of a high level vest will only fatigue them, particularly if the likelihood of attacks involving such weapons is low. On the other hand, there may be situations where Security Personnel need this high level of protection. If there is a particular alert or threat they are aware of, it may be that this protection is necessary. The highest levels of protection can only be achieved with rigid ‘hard armor’ plates made of Ceramics or Polyethylene. However, these plates are still light enough to be worn comfortably even in covert armors. Nevertheless, if it is not necessary, it should be avoided.

    Styles of Armor

    Understanding the level of protection your vest can offer is important, as it allows you to be protected against the most likely threats without being overburdened. However, it is just as important to consider how you will wear your vest, as there will be situations where overt or Tactical vests for example are inappropriate. Body armor is available in covert or overt styles. The former is designed to be worn under clothing, whereas the latter is worn over clothing and/or as a part of a uniform. There are vests which can be worn in either style, offering the Security Operative greater versatility. Both covert and overt vests have their advantages and disadvantages, and will be suitable for different situations. Overt body armor, for example, can help display the authority of a Security Officer and potentially deter attackers. Overt armor can be equipped with high-visibility covers, logos or insignia, and pouches and clips for equipment. This means that an overt vest can become a useful part of a uniform, and will certainly be beneficial to those who wish to display their authority and preparedness. In Offices or Transportation Security, for example, this presence will help give the public peace of mind. However, in other environments like schools perhaps or even churches, it may not be wise to have Security Personnel wearing such obvious protection. It has been argued that in situations like these the presence of body armor can invite attacks, and so covert armor will certainly be preferable. These vests offer the same levels of protection- and some can even house rigid plates- but in a discreet style that remains comfortable. Many of these vests, designed to be worn close to the skin, feature temperature-regulating materials to help keep the wearer cool.

    Types of Weapon

    Bullet proof vests should be considered the basic level of protection for all Security Personnel. However, it may be that firearms are not the only threat, and there are a variety of other weapons readily available that can be just as deadly, and often far easier to use. It is not commonly known that bullet resistant vests, while incredibly strong, simply cannot protect against edged or spiked weapons. This means that weapons like knives and needles can still cause potentially fatal injuries to someone wearing a bullet proof vest. This is because the soft materials used in the vest will simply be cut by a sharp edge. Similarly, spiked weapons like needles or screwdrivers can pass through the minute gaps between the fibers, rendering it useless. Protection against weapons like these should be considered by all Security Personnel, particularly those working in close quarters with the public or in closed environments. Stab and spike proof vests can still be bullet proof, and will use the same fabric to help mitigate the impact of attacks using edged or spiked weapons. However, they will also include a layer of chain mail and/or plastic laminate to provide a tough surface for these soft materials.

    Making body armor available to Security Personnel is vital; they cannot protect anyone if they cannot protect themselves. However, it can be a difficult task to choose the correct protective clothing. This is why it is so important that the relevant information is made available to Security Personnel. There are several options available in protective clothing, and each has advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Only by understanding exactly how body armor can help can Security Personnel protect themselves properly.

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  • The effectiveness and protection level of body armor is subject to how well it is maintained. How you use it is also critical to its durability. The maintenance of body armor involves aspects such as cleaning, assembling and storing. You need to know how to appropriately carry out each of these activities, to ensure your body armor lasts long. Let’s explore the top ten tips you could use to keep your body armor in top-notch condition for long. The tips are divided into three categories;


      1. The insert plates should be washed using cold water and soft soap. Use a soft cloth to scrub. You should avoid using hard detergents, bleach, and hard brushes.
      2. Body armor carrier differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some can be dry cleaned while other cannot. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and adhere to them.
      3. Do not submerge your armor in water even when washing. It is advisable to keep it away from moisture as much as possible. Avoid leaving the armor outside, or anywhere it is exposed to UV radiation.


      1. Insert Ballistic Panels correctly. Body armor will come with directions from the manufactures on how to insert and secure the ballistic panels in place. Take your time and ensure that the panels are well placed. Wrong placement will ultimately damage the carrier.
      2. Do not overload your carrier. Body armor comes with pockets to stash weapons and add trauma plates. Ensure every plate you add id necessary and avoid loading too many weapons on the armor. Too much weight will reduce the effectiveness of the armor and will eventually take a toll on it.
      3. Putting on body armor and adjusting is not as straightforward as one might assume. A big part of ensuring that the armor remains protective is ensuring it fits well. While putting it on, raise the armor over your head and let it sit on your shoulders. Now strap up the shoulder straps and the waist straps. Put on the armor while sitting down to ensure it fits well and feels comfortable.


    1. Body armor should not be put on hangers. They should be stored lying flat. Hanging armor means its weight continues acting on the ballistic materials, therefore, degrading them.
    2. It is best to have a locker or wardrobe where you could lay your body armor. Do not leave it in the car trunk or anywhere else it is exposed to sunlight. UV radiation degrades the ballistic materials.
    3. Always unload and disassemble all the part of the body armor before storing it.
    4. Conduct a frequent check on the body armor to ensure it is still in excellent condition. Body armor has strong double stitches around the carrier. Check these to ensure they are all still intact. Ensure you replace any trauma plates that have been hit or body armor that have been penetrated by a bullet.

    These tips are meant to ensure that your body armor lasts for long. They do not mean that your body will remain new forever. It is therefore vital that you keep in mind the warranty period of the manufacturer. Different manufacturers offer different warranty periods. Always replace the body armor after the warranty duration has elapsed.

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  • 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.

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