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WMD Protective Garments

Written by Scott Oldham

Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, the United States was woefully unprepared for a terrorist attack on home soil. Since that time, however, there have been many improvements in the response capabilities at all levels of public safety agencies.

After Sept. 11, law enforcement agencies across the country began, for the first time in many cases, to carefully examine the threats posed by terrorist organizations. One of the threats that has been voiced by al-Qaeda and others is to attack the United States with a weapon of mass destruction. While these weapons can take many forms, many experts believe that the most likely version of these weapons to be used in a terrorist attack will be chemical agents such as Sarin, Tabun, or others.

Many agencies found themselves unprepared to deal with such an attack and need to equip their officers with personal protective equipment so they can respond to these and other threats that may emerge. While there are many companies that make protective apparel, there are really only two types of systems suitable for use in a chemical or biological environment. These systems protect the wearer through either the barrier method or the absorption method.

In the barrier method, the officer dons a suit made of material that literally establishes a barrier between him and the threat. This barrier may be of one of several materials, but it essentially seals the officer within the suit. No air is exchanged between the inside of the suit and the exterior. The officer is masked with either an APR (air purifying respirator) or with an SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) depending on the nature of the threat.

The major disadvantage of this type of suit is based on its method of protection, i.e., no air passing between the interior of the suit and the outside world. The body heat will quickly build up to the point where it can become uncomfortable in the short term and debilitating in the long term due to the effects of dehydration. The major advantage of this system is that of cost. Due to the much-simplified construction of the suit in comparison to those using the absorption system, the units can be bought for much less. 

The second method of protection is the absorption method. By constructing the protective suit of a specifically formulated material, the suit can be air permeable, which will allow for improved cooling and heat dissipation. The material of the suit will absorb and encapsulate the agent and render it safe for the officer to be in that environment.

The major advantage of this system is comfort. The suits, due to air being allowed to pass through the suit, are much cooler and dissipate the heat much better than those using the barrier method. The suits are also much more comfortable to wear because they are normally made of a material that is similar to—albeit much thicker than—normal clothing. The downside to this system is cost. Although the suits have a long life span and are normally capable of being laundered, they are appreciably higher in initial cost.

There exists a burgeoning marketplace of companies that manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for law enforcement, military, industrial and commercial applications. We must remember that the military and law enforcement response to threats often show a great deal of overlap. As a result, agencies seeking this PPE technology are encouraged to remain as close as possible to the military specification and cautioned not stray into the industrial-commercial side of the equation.

Aramsco

Aramsco is a full-service company that is able to supply just about any need. One of the unique specialty products that this company has brought to market is the JetGuard Plus, which is a military- grade Level B protective suit. This was developed as a cooperative venture between Aramsco and Indutex as an affordable option to the DuPont™ Tychem®.

Long the standard for hazardous materials work, the DuPont Tychem suit, while excellent, is expensive. As a result, some agencies have had difficulty in equipping each first responder with one. It seemed natural that a less expensive option should be found. Aramsco, realizing this need, sought out Indutex, which is the European leader in the production and sales of CBRNE products. It only seemed natural that Aramsco would partner with that company to produce this suit and offer it to the world market.

Aramsco also specializes in keeping other products, such as Kappler Chemical Sealing tape, DuPont Tyvex®, DuPont Tychem, LANX suits and a variety of Nomex® products, in stock for delivery on a moment’s notice. Aramsco also is a supplier of the Demron Radiation Shielding Garments. These garments are available for many applications and are designed to protect the wearer against a multitude of threats.

There are many threats to be dealt with in a chemical, nuclear or biological environment, not the least of which is heat and ultimately the dehydration of the officer. If an officer becomes overheated or dehydrated, he is no longer part of the solution; he becomes part of the problem for other first responders. Because most chemical and biological personal protective equipment is very quick to retain heat, Aramsco also offers the Climatech Heat Shield cooling vest as well as the Phase Change cooling and heating vest.

Designed to be worn close to the body, the vest is a must-have item for anyone working in this equipment.  These vests allow for an officer, already encumbered in a chemical suit to be cooled or, in some cases such as cold weather activities, heated from inside of the vest. These vests do an admirable job of making the working environment much more tenable for those working in chemical and biological environments.


DuPont

The name is instantly recognizable. DuPont is an old firm that has an institutional base in chemical products. It would seem only natural that the world would turn to DuPont to provide personal protective equipment for use in these environments. Most of the offerings from DuPont are considered by the experts in the field to be the industry standards. While there are multitude of garments that are offered by this corporation, there are a couple that stand out as “best picks” for law enforcement use.

The DuPont Tychem brand name has been attached to several different versions of a basic full-body suit. These suits, which use the barrier method of protection, normally encapsulating the body in one garment except for the hands, face and feet, are considered by many to be the best selection going for “normal” law enforcement usage. The DuPont Tychem suits offer, in their various incarnations, everything that one would need in terms of protection from the list of possible substance that many consider likely threats.

Recently introduced are two new versions of the standard DuPont Tychem suit, the DuPont TyChem CPF3 HD and the DuPont ThermoPro. The DuPont Tychem CPF3 HD offers much to the first responder to a chemical incident. The suit features improved closures and integral gloves that are sure to reduce the time that it takes to don this protective apparel.

Since the gloves are now part of the overall suit, there is no longer the fear that by using equipment or handling personnel or weapons that the seal around the wrist area will be compromised. The garment, which has been tested against more than 110 different chemicals including Sarin, mustard gas and lewisite, also features an improved storm flap covering the larger front opening zipper.

The DuPont ThermoPro offers the best of all worlds. This suit offers the chemical protective quality of the DuPont Tychem line combined with a layer of Nomex for fire resistance. In fact, the DuPont ThermoPro has been certified to meet the NFA 2112 standard for flame-resistant protective garments. This suit, which is sure to see use by a number of tactical units while serving warrants on clandestine drug laboratories, is available in what appears to be grey. This is a welcome change from previous suits that came in a variety of eye catching, very bright “safety” colors. 

Tex-Shield

Tex-Shield first developed the SARATOGA technology behind its HAMMER suit at the request of a non-Department of Defense federal agency with law enforcement responsibilities. This agency saw the need for an air-permeable suit that was capable of being used in the chemical warfare threat environment.

The SARATOGA technology used in the construction of this suit is what is known as absorptive fabric. The fabric allows for air to circulate and for the suit itself to be more comfortable than those that use the barrier method of protection. The suits offer protection against the known threat chemicals. 

Since the introduction, the suits have received continual improvement. Currently, the suits are capable of being laundered six times during their lifecycle without issue. Future developments that are already in testing are suits that are lighter and thinner than those of current design, making the suit even more suitable for long duration activities.

In fact, Tex-Shield feels that its product offers the best of both worlds. The suit is capable of short-duration, high-intensity activities such as the physical confrontations common to law enforcement and the military or long-duration, low-intensity activities such as perimeter control or similar functions at the scene of an incident. Currently, the SARATOGA fabric is the only chemical protective fabric that is used in the United States military’s Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JLIST) protective suits.

The SARATOGA HAMMER suit has been selected by numerous different agencies as the suit of choice for tactical law enforcement functions. The suits repeatedly have proved themselves as flexible in their uses and are fully multi-mission capable.

Lakeland Industries

Lakeland offers many products that would be applicable as personal protective apparel for law enforcement agencies preparing for a possible WMD scenario. Lakeland is unique in that while it offers proprietary products such as the Pyrolon series of protective garments, it is also a licensed manufacturer of  the DuPont Tychem series of products such as the DuPont Tychem BR and DuPont Tychem F protective suits.

Lakeland’s Pyrolon CRF series offers a degree of chemical resistance while at the same time offering flame and flash resistance to the wearer. However, it is not as chemically resistant as the DuPont-licensed products, thus Lakeland suggests that the DuPont Tychem BR and DuPont Tychem F are perhaps the best ensemble for use by first responders during a chemical warfare incident.

While Lakeland representatives prefer the DuPont Tychem BR for this use, they recognize that it is about twice the cost of the DuPont Tychem F, which still features good chemical resistance but is offered at a more attractive price—always something that law enforcement agencies are looking for in any product.

LANX Fabric Systems

LANX offers two very different forms of protective garments for use in a chemical warfare environment. First, it offers the CPU or Chemically Protective Undergarment. This is an air-permeable carbon absorption system that is designed to be worn under other protective clothing. Being that the CPU is air permeable, it offers superior heat dissipation.

The second offering from LANX is the CPO or Chemically Protective Overgarment. The CPO is essentially a combination of the material found in the chemically protective undergarment and a nylon-cotton rip-stop outer shell that is designed to form a protective barrier against vapors, light liquids and aerosols. This two-piece garment is available in a variety of colors. Just as with the CPU, the air permeability of the garment allows for heat dissipation and cooling and offers a very low noise signature in comparison to barrier systems. The CPU is available in flame-resistant and non-flame-resistant versions.

The list of agencies using the LANX systems reads like a who’s who of American law enforcement. The reason that many give for choosing the LANX system over others is for comfort as well as the fact that the LANX systems have a minimum shelf life of 12 years and the capability of being laundered.

In the not-too-distant past, it was thought that a chemical or biological attack on the United States by a terrorist group was improbable. Now the threat cannot be denied. Law enforcement agencies must prepare for the day when it will become a reality in their jurisdictions. Officers should be trained and protective apparel fielded so the officers can survive in this environment and be able to take the measures needed to curtail the threat and protect the public.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.


Published in Law and Order, Oct 2006

Rating : 7.0


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AramscoDuPontIndutexLakeland IndustriesLanx Fabric SystemsTex-Shield
 

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