Which Types of Body Armour are used across the Security Sector?

Across the security industry, personnel face various risks from time to time. Regardless of your role, you may encounter dangerous individuals looking to cause you harm, perhaps because you stand in the way of something they need, or because you're attempting to apprehend them after they commit a crime. To stay as safe as possible in your work, whatever your specific role may be, you need to wear the proper protective clothing – but what exactly does this mean?

Today's security industry encompasses retail guards, door supervisors, bodyguards, cash-in-transit personnel, and event security. Each of these roles carries its own responsibilities, its own risks, and its own safety requirements – and so finding the protective vests best-suited to you may seem difficult if you know less than you should about body armour. This guide is designed to help you understand the various types of armour available, and the benefits they offer to your personal safety.

Making the Safest Choice: Which Armour do you Need?

Body armour is worn by many in the security industry. From security guards operating in high-crime areas to bodyguards protecting globally-recognised VIPs, vests provide protection against various threats – bullets, blades, and spiked weapons can all be stopped by the right vest.

Manufacturers produce a wide range of protective vests, providing numerous levels of protection – but which do you need? First of all, you should consider the typical dangers you could encounter in your role – are you a door supervisor at a popular club attracting people who are known to cause trouble? Do you work in a shopping centre with a high number of attempted thefts? If a troublemaker attacks you, are they likely to use their bare fists, a knife, or even a gun? Once you assess the most likely scenarios, you'll be able to choose the most suitable armour with greater ease.

Edged Blade Vests

Many people based in security roles wear edged blade armour (otherwise known as stab vests), in environments in which knives and other sharp objects may pose a danger. Generally, these are thin and lightweight, suitable for wear underneath other layers for more discrete protection – these do not interfere with your uniform, nor, in close-protection assignments, give your profession away.

These are made with a tight Kevlar weave in multiple layers, which causes friction against blades to stop them tearing through – these cover the front, the back, and the sides, protecting the vital organs. Stab vests are most suitable for retail-based security guards and door supervisors, who may encounter individuals carrying blades or sharp objects: shoplifters and aggressive people may carry a knife for personal protection, and if they feel you're provoking them, they could attack without giving proper thought to the consequences.

As with all types of body armour, stab vests are tested by both the UK's Home Office Scientific Development Branch, and the U.S.A.'s National Institute of Justice; many UK-based suppliers provide NIJ ratings as guidance. Three levels of stab protection – I, II, and III – are available, covering varying amounts of energy attackers may use, with the latter able to cope with the most ferocious of assaults.

Ballistic Vests

While the idea of wearing a bulletproof vest may seem extreme to some, security guards and bodyguards may need them from time to time. Whether based in a high-profile bank with a history of robberies (successful or attempted) or providing close protection to a politician, these people may find the threat of coming under fire a viable one: in these cases, bulletproof armour should be worn, either under or over your clothing.

Ballistic vests are designed to absorb a bullet's energy on impact, and disperse this throughout multi-layered Kevlar to reduce the force of the hit and halt the projectile's path. The NIJ rates bulletproof vests at five different levels, with each protecting against a specific type of ammunition, from more common, lower-velocity bullets to armour-piercing rounds.

Level IIA is designed to stop 9mm and .40 S&W bullets, whilst level II vests can protect against 9mm bullets (of a higher velocity: 398 m/s) and .357 bullets; level IIIA vests have enough stopping power to defend against .357 SIG bullets. These three types of ballistic armour are lightweight enough to wear underneath other layers, for discrete protection. For most security guards and bodyguards, these should provide all the protection you may need in a rare gun-related incident.

However, for guards working on cash-in-transit vehicles, and for bodyguards protecting high-risk clients in dangerous locations, armour rated at the next two levels may be needed. Level III vests carry steel ballistic plates, to protect against rifle-fire (bullets of 7.62mm type). Level IV vests feature ceramic plates as well as Kevlar, to stop armour-piercing bullets – if guarding a truck or client which may be targeted by heavily-armed professional criminals, these can help you to stay protected from even the most lethal fire-power.

Spike protection is designed to stop items with pointed-tips, with a tight Kevlar weave able to trap spikes between narrow fibres. Attackers may use needles or sharpened objects, which can carry contaminated DNA or harmful substances as well as posing a penetrative threat. As stab protection is designed to stop attacks made with slashing or stabbing motions, spiked weapons will generally have a single point of impact, and so the narrow eave is designed for this.

This article has been produced by SafeGuard Clothing, for more information on body armour and stab proof vests visit http://www.safeguardclothing.co.uk

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