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Tom Bowman: A Guide to Body Armour for Security

Author: Amanda Caton/28 September 2015/Categories: Blog

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Body armour can incorporate a wide range of products, from bullet proof helmets to stab proof vests. Tom Bowman, Communications Director of SafeGuard Armour, explains the vital considerations to make when choosing a solution.

There is such a wide variety of protection available, at different levels and in different styles, that it can often be difficult to know if your armour is suitable for you. Security Operatives (SOs) have to work in unique environments and deal with varied situations, and it is important that they understand exactly what the terms involved mean, and how armour can protect them.   


Covert vs. Overt Protection 

One of the most common tasks an SO will find themselves performing is Close Protection, guarding a client and providing a wide range of services like driving or perhaps crowd control. While Close Protection will naturally differ depending on the client, it is likely that remaining discreet, professional, and protected are of the utmost importance. Many clients will require their protection to remain available without drawing attention, and so these Operatives will need a covert vest. 

Covert vests are designed to be worn underneath clothing, whereas overt vests can be worn over clothing or as part of a uniform. Covert vests have the advantage of offering discreet protection that is usually lightweight and breathable, allowing SOs a full range of movement while staying protected. This is important for a profession that often requires SOs to work in the public eye, where visible armour can draw attention and even attacks. 

Of course, there will be situations where SOs wish to make their protection known, in which case overt armour is the right choice. For example, transit security and even some close protection roles will benefit from displaying armour, and an overt vest can form an important part of a uniform. This is because overt armour can be equipped with pockets for equipment, helpful attachments and even logos and insignia. 

Overt armour also has the benefit of displaying an SOs authority, emphasising their protection and deterring potential attackers. 

Additional Protection 

Another advantage of overt armour is its ability to be upgraded with additional protection for other areas, such as the upper arm, groin, neck, and throat for example. 

For particularly dangerous environments this extra protection can be invaluable to an SO, and will provide complete protection. For example, working in Maritime Security is increasingly dangerous, and some will wish to have this full body protection to defend against the growing number of well-armed pirates. Similarly, both covert and overt armour can be equipped with rigid plates that are capable of stopping higher calibre threats. Ballistic protection is tested and outlined by the US National Institute of Justice, and the levels (NIJ Levels) armour can be rated at determines the threats it is capable of protecting against. 

For high calibre rounds commonly used in rifles and automatics, armour needs to be at Level III or IV, which can only be achieved with hard plates of Ceramic and/or Polyethylene. This rigid panel are still lightweight enough to be worn on covert vests, and in extreme situations can prove to be life-saving for an SO. On the other hand, it is not always ballistic threats that are most dangerous for a Security Operative. In some roles, particularly Close Protection, firearms are simply not a likely threat, yet other weapons can be just as deadly. 

Many do not realise that bullet proof vests can only protect against bullets; weapons like knives, needles, bottles or screwdrivers will need a stab or spike proof vest. Bullet proof vests use soft fabrics made from incredibly strong plastic fibres, which give it its protective qualities. These fibres can absorb and disperse large amounts of energy, while also trapping a bullet and flattening it. 

However, while they will absorb some of the impact of an attack with an edged or spiked weapon, an edged weapon can simply cut through the fabric, rendering it useless. 

Similarly, a spiked weapon will pass through the minute gaps between the fibres, again penetrating the vest. For edged and spiked protection vests need to use materials like chainmail and laminate to provide a tough surface to protect the wearer. 

 Whatever the choice, body armour has to reflect the individual’s own preparation and awareness of the most likely threats they will face. Understanding the different protective options available makes it easier to choose the correct armour for the situation. However, armour can only protect you if it is worn regularly.

For more information about SafeGuard Armour, visit their website.

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