How Paramedics can Benefit From Body Armour

Wednesday, 23 December, 2015


Working in emergency healthcare is a difficult task at the best of times, and Paramedics and Ambulance Crews face extremely stressful situations. This is made even worse by attacks and injuries which can do both physical and psychological damage, and can severely impede their ability to properly perform such a demanding yet crucial job. Imagine, then, how difficult a job Field Medics have to undertake. These brave men and women undertake all the stresses and rigours of emergency healthcare with the guarantee of danger and hostility. It is therefore imperative that these people are protected to give them at least some peace of mind.

Body armour is a necessity for Field Medics, and it is unreasonable to expect them to save lives and perform their job to the best of their ability without it. However, the nature of their role means they have very specific requirements for any body armour. One of the most important parts of a field medic’s role is preparation; in this case, being aware of the most likely threats they will face, in order to prepare accordingly.

On the other hand, as recent events have sadly shown, there are events for which one cannot prepare. Paramedics are increasingly called to severe incidents to serve as first responders, and these horrific events provide a great deal more threats to deal with. Body armour can never provide compelte protection to a Paramedic, certainly should not replace due diligence and caution. However, the protective clothing products available will help Ambulance Crews feel more confident in their own protection, and thus allow them to perform to the best of their ability.

Body armour is an umbrella term for a number of different products. For example, it not only includes bullet proof vests, but ballistic helmets, stab proof vests, and even concealable armour. It is unlikely that a stab proof vest will be particularly necessary, but even ballistic protection is available in multiple ways. This is why preparation is so important, as it allows for the correct level of protection to be chosen. Ballistic protection is tested in accordance with NIJ standards (The US National Institute of Justice), and is graded depending on the size and strength of ammunition it can protect against.

In hostile environments, it may be that high calibre ammunition and even armour-piercing rounds are used, in which case armour is needed at the highest level. This, however, is significantly bulkier and heavier than lower levels, making it uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. Lower levels, on the other hand, can protect against the vast majority of ammunition used in handguns and semi-automatics, and are significantly lighter and thinner. The protection necessary depends on the likely threats; therefore, it is important that an appropriate level is selected.

It is not only the type of protection that matters, but the style. Body armour is available in both covert and overt styles, designed to be worn under and over clothing respectively. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages; covert armour is lightweight and flexible, and offers full protection while remaining discreet. Some covert vests also incorporate temperature regulating technologies to help keep the wearer cool and draw moisture away from the skin.

On the other hand, overt vests can be augmented with additional protection for the upper arms and throat for example, and can be customised with high-visibility covers and even logos and insignia. This can be useful for Field Medics who wish to display their role, letting all know of their status as non-combatant. However, some have argued that this is increasingly making medics a target, as terrorist groups in particular look to attack or kidnap civilians like medics. This is why the decision must remain a personal one, and must be an informed one. Whatever the choice, body armour is lighter, thinner and stronger than ever, and can be worn comfortably.

It is important that armour is comfortable, as the majority of injuries in hostile environments occur from crossfire, particularly when travelling. Armour that can be worn even when seated and driving will help greatly increase the chances of survival, another reason why armour must be appropriate for the situation. Working as a medic in hostile environments is a stressful and dangerous job. However, being aware of the protective options available, and which are most suitable for the situation, will help Field Medics not only stay safe in these environments, but remain confident and mobile enough to properly perform their job and help save lives.

This is not say that body armour needs to be mandatory, and for many it will simply not be necessary. Just as the decision on what type of body armour should be worn rests with the individual, so too does the decision on whether or not to wear body armour. However, providing the protection allows individuals to wear it if they deem it necessary, helping them perform their job safely. An international survey conducted by PPSS Group indicated that 76% of Paramedics felt that stab proof vests should be issued to all, though 62% felt it should not be compulsory to wear. As we can see, if nothing else, bullet and stab proof vests are items that Paramedics should be aware of and understand, so that they can keep themselves protected as much as is possible.

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