EMS Body Armor

Posted on: July 19, 20161

Yesterday’s article I wrote about body armor has sparked a lot of questions and conversation. I have been receiving constant Facebook messages and emails about it. It is obvious that there is a great amount of fear and concern with our Law Enforcement Agencies right now, and they are not being supported and equipped properly by those who are in charge of them and especially the City Councils. But one topic that came up really got my blood boiling. Although it lined up with a planned article on LE tactics, it is weighing on me this morning and I feel it merits its own post. Should EMS be wearing Body Armor?


Emerging Threats

            The simple answer is yes. We are at war right now and people need to wrap their heads around that. While Congress makes an official declaration of war, we do not get to choose whether we are at war. The ENEMY does, period. Both Radical Islam and Radical Socialists groups have declared war on America. Everyone is a valid target in their eyes. Departments and Agencies need to get proactive on their posture and tactics fast. City Councils need to shift funding to support their first responders or they won’t have a society that can use the social welfare they are funding. Believe it or not, the Dallas City council STILL has not funded a fence and barrier for their parking lot after last year’s attack and has not funded body armor for their officers. That’s right, people who are targets for attacks while making a teacher’s salary have to pay for their own body armor and rifles. I have had conversations with officers whose wives are begging them to transfer to a rural area because they aren’t being supported. It is absolutely sickening. What does this have to do with EMS? Beyond the fact that they respond, often alone, to very dangerous scenes on a daily basis- it is only a matter of time before we encounter secondary ambushes against first responders. We are already seeing baited ambushes against officers. And yes, I know the difference between a tactical medic and regular EMS. If that came to your mind, you are part of the problem. If you think you have enough tactical medics to cover a coordinated attack in a metro area in multiple geographic locations, you’re kidding yourself. If you are an administrator that thinks EMS in body armor “makes you a target”, retire- you are not fit to be in a position to manage first responders in our current threat environment and you are placing those in your charge in danger. /Rant over.


Stab Resistance Vs Ballistic Protection

One of the big concerns that EMS has is protection from edged weapons while responding to a scene or treating patients. I previously wrote that when you try to make one piece of equipment do everything- it does nothing well. This is one of those cases. The NIJ testing protocol for stab resistance is separate from the ballistic testing. In order to protect against the force of an adult male’s stab, you need a NIJ SP3 level vest. These are commonly specialized vests that are designed for corrections officers conducting cell extractions. While there are stab resistant inserts for vests, they can often restrict movement much more than ballistic plates because they wrap around the sides of the body. Medical personnel have a constant need for torso mobility while working on a patient, because they are often reaching around the patient and their trauma bag. There are slash resistant shirts and pants that you can wear to mitigate glancing blows, but it is not going to be a 100% solution.

Tactics as Protection

I would submit that tactics will be your best protection. Have a partner that isn’t “patient focused” that can monitor for external threats. Approach the subject and position yourself to control the patient’s hands with your legs (BJJ is a great training solution here). Move into a dual purpose secondary survey as soon as possible, don’t just feel for blood and injury- check for weapons and threats. Do it out of habit even when it isn’t necessary, for the one instance where it matters. Weigh the security of the scene Vs the need to stabilize before moving. This can be a tough one, but consider the threat to yourself and to the patient if you continue packaging the patient on the scene- moving the patient off the “x” may do more to save them and yourself.


Bottom Line

My current advice to EMS is this: wear a Level IIIA ballistic rated and Level 1 or 2 stab resistance rated vest daily. Have an EMS specific plate carrier, like the one pictured in this article, in your vehicle along with a ballistic helmet. These do not need to be Multicam or whatever. A blue or red vest will raise less of an eyebrow with the standard idiot that thinks you don’t need them. You don’t need to throw it on for every call. A grandmother who has fallen or a heart attack in the suburbs are examples of this (maybe). But anytime you respond to a weapons related call, put it on. Mark my words, secondary ambushes on first responders IS coming and someone is going to be the first victim. If it is you- be prepared.




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