POLICE Magazine Supplements

Ballistic Protection 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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can stretch the straps and affect the fit. A number of manufacturers make hangers designed specifically for hang- ing body armor. If you plan to store your armor by hanging it, these prod- ucts are a good investment. But before hanging your vest in any fashion, check the manufacturer's instructions. WASHING THE CARRIER A nybody who has ever worn body armor under a uniform shirt knows that the carriers can get soak- ing wet with perspiration. is happens even when the wearer has an undershirt beneath the carrier. All of that sweat can make armor stink. So it needs to be cleaned. ere is an art to properly cleaning body armor. If you do it wrong, you will ruin it. Your ballistic vest consists of the cloth carrier, front and back armor pan- els, and a so trauma plate or insert. You have to clean the armor panel and the carrier separately. So the first thing to do is take it apart. Pull out the armor panels and so trauma plate and set them flat on a flat surface. ey can- not be washed with the carrier. You should have at least two carriers for your ballistic panels. is will allow you to wash one and wear the other. Keeping your carrier clean and dry will help your ballistic panels last the full five years that most armor is rated to last. Your carrier is a cloth garment and like most cloth garments it probably has the manufacturer's care instructions on a tag inside. You should follow those in- structions. Note: Some manufacturers have gone digital and their care instruc- tions are on their websites. Here's what those instructions are likely to say. Do not dry clean. You can probably machine wash the carrier but some manufacturers advocate hand washing. (Make sure the armor pan- els are not in it. Machine washing the armor panels or even dipping them in water can damage them.) Once you take the armor panels out, you can wash the carrier in the machine on the gentle cycle with a mild detergent or hand wash it. Do not use bleach, not even non-chlorine bleach. Do not use starch or fabric soener. Be sure to remove (or some manufacturers say "secure") the carrier's straps before dropping it into the machine. Once your carrier has taken its ride in the washing machine or it has been washed by hand, you can probably dry it in the dryer on low. If the tag inside your vest contradicts these instructions, follow the instructions. Some manufac- turers recommend air drying the carri- er inside on a hanger. CLEANING THE ARMOR C leaning armor panels is hand work; keep them away from the washing machine and don't send them to the dry cleaner. When you take the armor out of the carrier before washing the carrier, give them an inspection. Make sure there are no holes or cuts in the covering and no ballistic material is showing. Do not spray with Febreze or any other disin- fectant or freshener. e chemicals in these products can compromise some ballistic materials. Keep the panels flat while cleaning. Do not rinse them, submerge them, or soak them. Use a minimal amount of water. A damp sponge or cloth is rec- ommended. Some manufacturers say you can use mild soap. Check the pro- vided instructions. Armor panels cannot be machine dried because it will damage the ballis- tic material. ey also cannot be hung on a clothesline or dried in the sun be- cause ultraviolet light exposure can de- grade the ballistic material. Let them air dry on a flat surface. Do not iron armor panels. Do not use a blow dryer on the panels. Before wearing the vest again, make sure that it is reassembled properly; that includes both armor panels and the trau- ma plate. Your panels will say which side should face the threat. Flipping them can lead to tragedy. e "strike face" of the panel is designed to slow the bullet and disperse the bullet's energy; the back of the panel is designed to minimize trau- ma. Experts say if you flip the panels, you may experience more trauma and it's possible that the armor may not stop rounds it is rated to stop. Never wear your vest without its armor panels. e carrier without the armor offers no more protection than your favorite dress shirt. DON'T DAMAGE IT B elieve it or not there are stories that some officers have decided to test their vests. In what may very well just be police tall tales, there are reports that rookies have been convinced to do this by mischievous (malicious) veteran officers. You do not have to test your vest by shooting it or stabbing it or doing any- thing else to it. e manufacturers have submitted their designs to special test- ing labs that certify them according to NIJ standards. Even though your vest is rated to withstand multiple hits from specified rounds, it is not made to be worn aer it has been damaged. Once it's shot it is either evidence or something to be discarded. If you take good care of your vest, it should protect you against certified threats for at least five years. If you don't take care of your vest, you may have to replace it much sooner, or worse, it may not protect you when your life literally depends on it. n 4 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | B A L L I S T IC PR O T E C T IO N PHOTO: POLICE FILE Maintaining Concealable Body Armor

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