Chris Taylor

Communications director, Safeguard Armour

Author Bio ▼

Chris Taylor is communications director for Safeguard Armour, the Premium Body Armour Manufacturer and Supplier In The UK.
April 7, 2016

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Body Armour and Security Operatives: a Guide

The Security Industry requires that security operatives work in a variety of challenging situations from role to role.

Dealing with these situations requires a great deal of experience, preparation and awareness as each of them can be potentially very dangerous. Therefore, their preparation and awareness has to include these threats and how they can safeguard themselves against those threats.

This should include an understanding of protective equipment and what they can equip themselves with in order to perform to the best of their ability.

It is unreasonable to expect Security Operatives (SOs) to work in these dangerous environments without the proper equipment, particularly protective equipment. Moreover, even if the situation does not seem dangerous, it is the SO’s responsibility to be prepared for any threat, which is why it is so important that they are sure of their safety no matter the circumstance.

This is why SOs should be wearing body armour regularly, and why they must ensure that it is relevant for their particular role.

Tactical body armour

Tactical body armour

The most important aspect of body armour for SOs to be aware of is the protection it can offer. Many do not realise that in addition to covering a wide range of items, body armour is also available at a range of protection levels according to the size and strength of the threat it can protect against. The most common example of body armour is a Kevlar bullet proof vest, which is soft and flexible and capable of protecting against ballistic threats.

Ballistic protection

However, bullet proof vests are available at different protection levels depending on the ammunition it can protect you against. These levels are determined by the ballistic testing standards standardised by the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) which is widely recognised as being the world leader in ballistics testing.

If ballistic protection is required it will likely be in the form of soft armour, meaning no rigid plates of ceramics or polyethylene will be used. Vests of this type use fabrics like Kevlar, and are therefore known as ‘soft armours’.

These soft armours are available up to and including NIJ Level IIIa, which is capable of protecting against most handgun ammunition, including .44 Magnums.

Whilst ballistic protection will be of use to those serving in particularly dangerous locations, the vast majority of SOs will simply not need ballistic protection. Thanks to sensible gun restrictions and firearms laws, the UK has a far lower rate of gun crime than other countries.

However, the threat of attack remains, and there are numerous weapons that are readily available and can easily cause a fatal injury.

Weapons like knives and needles are not only very easy to obtain, but can easily cause fatal injuries. It is not commonly known that a bullet-resistant vest is not capable of protecting against weapons like these, and while it will protect you in a number of situations, it cannot stand up to edged or spiked weapons.

Spike-proof vest

This is because the soft fabric usually found in a bullet proof vest will be cut or bypassed by these weapons. Therefore, you will need a specially formulated stab or spike proof vest.

These vests will also use fabrics like Kevlar, as their strength allows them to mitigate the impact of an attack. However, they will also use a thin layer of chainmail and/or plastic laminate, which protect the fabric and stops the weapons from penetrating.

These will increase the weight and decrease the flexibility of the vest, but improvements to material technologies mean these changes are negligible, and stab and spike proof vests should be considered by all SOs.

Those working in crowded areas or perhaps as a doorman will benefit from greatly from this protection, as an attack involving one of these weapons can come quickly and quietly, and could leave you gravely injured before you realised you’d been attacked. Wearing the appropriate vest will give you the upper hand and keep you protected.

Of course, the advantage noted above is only applicable if the attacker cannot see the vest. By wearing a vest underneath clothing, an SO retains this advantage. However, there are situations where the benefits of an overt vest outweigh the benefits of a covert vest.

Just as there are different levels of protection available, there are different styles of vest available, though these can largely be split into covert and overt styles. These are designed to be worn underneath and over clothing respectively, and each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Discreet protection

As already mentioned, a covert vest has the advantage of being discreet. For SOs working around members of the public, keeping their protection discreet is important.

A covert vest does not sacrifice protection in favour of discretion, and even high levels of protection are available in a covert vest. This is again thanks to advancements in materials technologies which allows vests to be thinner and lighter than ever.

This means that some SOs, perhaps those protecting a particularly high value client or working on public ships in areas of high piracy, can have protection against even armour-piercing ammunition in a discreet covert vest.

Of course, for SOs working in site security or in high profile areas like airports or oil and gas facilities overseas, a covert vest will simply not be necessary. Indeed, any SO may benefit from an overt vest as it will help emphasise their authority and possibly even discourage potential attackers.

An overt vest also has the benefit of being customisable with logos and insignia, and can be augmented with pockets and pouches to make it a useful part of a uniform.

Tactical vest

Of course, there is always the option of a tactical vest, which can provide an SO with unparalleled protection. These vests are naturally much heavier and far less flexible than their overt or covert counterparts, and so are simply unnecessary for most.

However, for those working in active warzones or anyone expecting extremely serious attacks, these vests are invaluable. With protection for peripheral areas like the upper arms and groin, these vests usually come with rigid plates capable of protecting against even explosives.

There are a number of options available to Security Operatives, all of which come with their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice has to rest with the SO, however, who must use her or his own judgement to decide what will be most appropriate for the environments they will find themselves in.

Whatever the choice, it is imperative that SOs are protected and equip themselves with some form of body armour.

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