Operation bunkers - first responders can make a difference if properly protected

Operation Bunkers

First responders can make a difference if properly protected

operation bunkers
Portable bunkers provide first responders the ability to make a difference in the early stages of critical crisis response. If staged in schools, airports or a mall, these tools become a needed resource for first responders regardless of the level of training or the equipment they may have. Bunkers have already been time-tested and have proven to be valuable assets in the SWAT community for hostage negotiation, barricaded subjects and crisis response.

Most critical response incidents occur before SWAT teams can respond, illustrating how valuable portable bunkers become for first responders in an effort to save lives, and in situations where assault weapons, large-caliber rifles or armor-piercing bullets may be used.

Law enforcement agencies, particularly SWAT teams, often confront armed and dangerous people. It is not unusual for these agencies to be facing large-caliber rifle rounds, such as the 30-06 rifle rounds, common in hunting and the military, and the .308, .223 and the 7.62 x 39. Criminals also have been known to buy armor-piercing rounds, available for purchase to civilians, such as in the North Hollywood Bank of America shooting.

Many incidents—Sandy Hook, Northern Illinois University, Aurora Movie House, Virginia Tech University, Red Lake High School, University of Texas and Columbine—involve assault weapons, such as the AR15 and the AK47. There are more than 2.1 million AR-15s in the United States today, and many are outfitted with extended clips, allowing the shooter up to 30 shots without reloading. AR-15’s can fire up to 200 rounds per minute.

Body Armor

Although it is standard practice for law enforcement to wear body armor, armor is heavy and typically rated only for handguns. While small armored plates are often worn inside vests to protect vital areas of the body, they offer limited protection, especially to the lower torso, legs, feet, neck, head and face. For example, a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) level IIIA vest’s maximum rating is for a limited number of shots from a 44 magnum handgun. Vests are bulky and heavy, weighing about 40 pounds with front, back and side plates. Because the armor must not interfere with an officer’s agility, vests are designed to be small and practical but limited in coverage.

operation bunkersIn general terms, a “bulletproof” vest or other armor will protect law enforcement from the majority of handgun threats. However, there is always a tradeoff between protection, wearability and weight constraints. Body armor is vulnerable by rifle rounds, unusually high-velocity pistol ammunition, pistol ammunition fired from a rifle barrel, armorpiercing ammunition, sharp-edged or pointed instruments and other unusual ammunition.

At some angles, projectiles can slide, deflect or ricochet off armor. Furthermore, projectiles that are successfully stopped by armor will always produce some level of injury— bruising, broken bones, internal damage and even death. While soft-body armor defeats most pistol and shotgun projectiles, no vest makes law enforcement invulnerable to all threats.

The head is much more susceptible to blunt trauma than the body. Although head protection reduces the odds of serious injury, helmets do not protect the face or neck. Any impact of a bullet on a helmet can cause injury or death, so, as with any armor, there is no guarantee of invulnerability.

Personal shields may be used for more protection. The shields are heavy, so they are designed to cover only the vital areas of the body and are usually only 16 inches x 38 inches. While shields provide an additional layer of protection, most are only rated for handguns and are difficult to carry long distances because of their weight. To stop armor-piercing rounds, even the smallest shield would weigh more than 50 pounds with a vision panel and battery-powered light. The ability to manipulate a weapon is also limited since at least one of the officer’s hands is occupied carrying the shield.

The level of protection required for each confrontation can vary widely. Agencies often consider the 30-06, .308, .223, 7.62 x 39 and armor-piercing rounds as their most serious threat. Furthermore, so personnel can see adequately without unnecessarily exposing themselves to danger, officers typically need to be positioned within a distance of about 30 yards. These requirements have established a performance baseline for adequate protection.

Bunker Benefits

Portable bunkers could be used in schools, universities, and movie theaters by law enforcement agencies, as well as the military, secret service, homeland security and security contractors. Mobile bunkers can be stored in a closet or office. Collapsible bunkers that have a low footprint can easily be stored under a piece of furniture, in the trunk of a car, the rear of an SUV or in an armored personnel carrier (APC).

The mobile ballistic bunker is a rolling shield on wheels that protects 100 percent of a person’s body. The non-collapsible bunker measures 22 inches x 75 inches and consists of a lower panel and an upper section of glass. The panels can be removed and replaced if the panel or glass is shot. A hinged apron at floor level provides ballistic protection against low shots and skip rounds. The hinges allow movement across irregular surfaces, such as gravel, and the frame permits the vertical stacking of panels and glass that act as a full-body shield.

The collapsible bunker is similar in size to the non-collapsible unit when standing. However, it can be folded into a small bundle, hidden under a coffee table or cabinet. Since it is only 14-inches tall, the unit can be transported easily. The caster-type wheels have run-flat tires that permit the bunker to be moved over rough terrain. The wheels, which rotate 360 degrees, can be locked for front-to-rear or lateral motion.

The ballistic bunker can be fully deployed at a remote location, then rolled into position, providing full-ballistic protection during movement. Once in position, it is free-standing and can pass through a 3-foot doorway without exposing officers or compromising its ballistic integrity.

For situations requiring broader ballistic protection, two or more units can be latched together. Removable panels can be easily lifted onto the bunker to increase its width. A standard twin bunker with all optional panels measures more than 7 feet wide. Portable bunkers are the next step in responder protection.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Security Today.

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