An active shooter in your community. It’s something that you hope will never happen, but it’s something that all first responders must prepare for. Naturally, Law Enforcement takes the lead in active shooter scenarios, but a coordinated response that includes Fire/Medical professionals is essential when lives are on the line. Due to the increasing number of active shooter events, ballistic protection is something that all responders need to plan for, it’s not just for LEOs anymore. Thankfully, the NFPA has recently issued a new standard to address this.
A Ballistic Standard from the NFPA
NFPA 3000 is a provisional standard developed by and for the public safety community to provide a framework for ASHER (Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response) programs. The full scope of the NFPA 3000 standard covers a broad range of topics, but we’re going to focus on only one, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). NFPA 3000 states that responders exposed to ballistic risks should be provided with body armor certified to National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level IIIA if working in the warm or hot zone of an incident.
What is the NIJ standard?
The NIJ is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Through the NIJ’s testing program, all body armor is evaluated against a standard set of tests to determine its performance. NIJ Standard-0101.06 specifies five levels of ballistic performance for body armor. The first three levels – IIA, II and IIIA – are typically soft armors.
Tested to stop 9mm and .40 S&W ammunition fired from short barrel handguns
Tested to stop 9mm and .357 Magnum ammunition fired from short barrel handguns
Tested to stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from longer barrel handguns
In addition to the level IIIA ballistic protection, NFPA 3000 specifies that “externally-worn PPE should be identified with the agency and/or responder role”. Luckily, most external vests and carriers are made to accommodate hook-and-loop ID panels to meet that requirement. Many ballistic vests and carriers also include pockets for installing rifle-resistant plates for additional protection. While they’re not specified in the NFPA 3000 standard, hard plates are an optional extra that responders should seriously consider for their ASHER program.
Thankfully, ballistic protection isn’t everyday equipment for Fire/Medical professionals. But if that unfortunate day comes when it’s needed, the life saved could be your own.