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What security personnel need to know about body armor

SafeGuard Armor: STEALTH™

Body armor should be considered a necessary piece of equipment for all Security Personnel. This is not only because of the dangers inherent to their occupation, but because of the myriad benefits a bullet proof vest for example can offer. Protective clothing is more accessible than ever before, and the protection it can provide is unparalleled. This is why it should be considered necessary for all Personnel. However, body armor is a very broad term, and understanding what exactly is available will help ensure the right protection is utilized.

What Protection Level Will You Need?

One of the most important things for any Security Operative to consider is the protection level they will need. Many do not realise that a bullet proof vest is not a ‘one size fits all’ item, and that they are graded according to the threats they can protect against. Ballistic protection is designated by an ‘NIJ Level’, which refers to the testing and standardization performed by the US National Institute of Justice. This institution is considered the world leader in ballistics testing, and it is important that any protective clothing meets their standards.

These NIJ Levels outline what ammunition a vest is capable of stopping; for example, a vest at NIJ Level IIa can protect against 9mm and .357 ammunition, whereas a vest at NIJ Level IV can stop 7.62x51mm NATO Armor-Piercing ammunition, as well as all ammunition listed at lower levels. It is important that the vest you wear is appropriate for the threats you will face; a low level vest will not be sufficient in a particularly hostile environment. Similarly, wearing a high level vest when the only likely threats are from handguns is inappropriate, and will only sap your energy and hinder your movement.

Deciding on the right level of protection can only be done if you understand what threats you are likely to face, as the increased protection levels will increase the weight and bulk of a vest. However, the materials used in a vest are as lightweight and flexible as possible, meaning that if a high level vest is necessary, you will still have a full range of movement and remain comfortable despite wearing additional rigid plates.

What Threats Will You Face?

Of course, bullet proof vests are not the instance of body armor. Being protected means staying safe no matter what the threats are, and while this doesn’t mean you should choose the highest level of protection, you should have a vest that protects you against the likely threats. In close quarters or areas where firearms are simply not available, this may mean edged and spiked weapons.

Many do not realise that a Kevlar vest cannot protect you against edged and spiked weapons. This is because while the soft fabric is incredibly strong, it can simply be cut by a weapon like a knife, penetrating easily. Similarly, a needle or screwdriver will pass through the minute gaps between the fibers, again rendering the vest useless. Therefore, protection against these weapons requires additional materials.

An edge resistant vest will still use the soft fabrics in a bullet proof vest, but with an additional layer of chainmail or plastic laminate that provides a tough surface to stop any edged weapons. Spiked weapons, however, can only be stopped by a tough and solid surface, and in order to keep vests as thin and light as possible, many spike proof vests uses layers of plastic laminate.

How Will You Wear Your Vest?

It is not enough to consider the protection level however, as no vest will protect you properly if it does not fit correctly. Similarly, just as unnecessary levels of protection will only hinder you, wearing the wrong style of vest will prevent you from performing correctly, negating the benefits of a vest. Therefore, you must consider what style of vest is most appropriate for your situation.

Body armor is available in both covert and overt styles, meaning it can be worn under or over clothing respectively. Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages and will be suitable for different environments. For example, a covert vest is perfect for Security Personnel who need to stay protected and discreet. By wearing a vest under clothing complete protection can still be attained, but in a style that emphasises discretion- or, rather, does not emphasise your vest.

On the other hand, there will be situations where it is beneficial for a Security Operative to display their authority. Some feel that the presence of a protective vest helps deter potential attackers and signals a professionalism that some clients find particularly beneficial. Therefore, an overt vest worn over clothing will be ideal in certain situations. Indeed, they can often form part of a uniform, with high-visibility coverings, logos and insignia added to a vest. 

Body armor has to be available to Security Professionals. While an attack may never happen to an Operative, the dangers inherent to the environments they work in means they should be prepared and protected. This is the only way they can feel confident enough in their own safety to perform in their roles. There are numerous options available in protective clothing, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages to certain situations. It is only by understanding the intricacies of body armor that a Security Operative can find the right protection and stay safe.


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