As the threat to fire crews become ever more apparent at terrorist incidents, Ralston Kome, SafeGuard Armour, reports on US fire departments use of body armour to protect their personnel
Fire personnel face a variety of threats on a daily basis. The need for body armour comes from the changing role and operations of fire personnel during and after an active shooter/multiple casualty industrial incident. 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, firefighters 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 a medical emergency call at the man’s home. Other fire crews are routinely 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 firefighters, 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 two to three, 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.
The author says that body armour such as that provided by SafeGuard Armour Ltd should fit correctly. He says the armour should supplement a firefighter’s standard uniform, allowing them to fulfil comfortably their working responsibilities
Stab vests come in three different protection levels with a level three vest being the highest available option. The higher the level, the more likely it is to protect against an attack with higher force. Every firefighter should individually decide which level of protection is right for them and their 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 armour 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 armour should supplement a firefighter’s standard uniform, allowing them to fulfil comfortably their working responsibilities.
“In addition to debris, heat and explosives, firefighters are at risk of getting injured by an active shooter and violent encounters”
Another significant benefit of body armour 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 maximise comfort in all situations.
Fire departments looking to acquire body armour 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 firefighters is Level II as it provides a good balance between blunt trauma protection, versus cost, and thickness/comfort. Classified as soft armour, it provides the wearer with sufficient protection while remaining comfortable and lightweight – the perfect combination for the gruelling line of work of firefighters.