UNDERSTANDING BODY ARMOR: A GUIDE FOR SECURITY PERSONNEL
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.
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.