DO: Follow the manufacturer-recommended care instructions. (Every model of body armor that complies with NIJ Standard-0101.06 is required to have manufacturer-recommended care instructions on the label.)
DO: Make certain that anyone else, such as a family member, who cares for the armor is also aware of these instructions.
DO: Visually inspect ballistic panel covers frequently. Check for cuts, tears, stitching separation, sealing problems and worn or frayed fabric due to excessive wear.
DON'T: Open the covers of armor panels for any reason. If the integrity of the panel cover is compromised in any way, contact your agency representative immediately.
DO: Visually inspect hard armor plates before each use to ensure that no surface cracks or other signs of damage are present; damage to a plate is a clear indicator that the armor panel or plate should be replaced.
DON'T: Assume that an appearance of good condition implies good performance.
DO: Frequently inspect the condition of the label on the armor panel. On receipt of a new protective vest, copy the information included on the product label and retain it in a safe place. It is strongly recommended that each law enforcement agency maintain an inventory of vest information for all officers, most importantly the information included on the manufacturers' labels.
DON'T: Continue to wear a vest with an illegible label. Contact the manufacturer about replacing the label. Retain an illegible or worn label. Identifying the model is important in the event of a safety recall.
DO: Be aware of the manufacturer's product warranty expiration date and work with your agency representative to ensure that the vest is replaced in a timely manner. If the armor is beyond its declared warranty period, report it to your agency representative.
DON'T: Remove serviceable armor from service until replacement armor is available for immediate wear. An officer with no armor is at greater risk than an officer wearing older or worn/damaged armor.
DO: Notify your agency representative about any armor panel or label showing damage or excessive wear.
DON'T: Attempt to repair armor panels under any circumstances. Report damage to your agency representative.
DO: Involve supervisors in the inspection of body armor.
DO: Ensure that armor panels fit properly into carriers with the strike face and wear face correctly oriented. Refer to the ballistic panel label, which indicates whether the labeled side is the strike face or wear face.
DON'T: Needlessly flex, bend, compress or crease soft armor panels when handling them. This may contribute to degradation of ballistic materials over time.
DO: Handle hard armor plates, particularly those incorporating ceramic materials, carefully because they may be fragile.
DON'T: Drop plates made of ceramic materials on hard surfaces, as this can cause breaks or cracks that can have an adverse effect on performance.
DO: Follow the general industry procedure for cleaning armor panels:
- Remove panels from carrier.
- Wipe outer panel cover using a damp sponge or soft cloth and cold water.
- Air-dry panels flat, avoiding folding or creasing while drying.
- Insert dry panels back into the carrier with each panel strike or wear face correctly oriented.
DON'T: Perform any of the following during cleaning:
- Dry clean, machine-wash or machine dry armor panels, either in the home or commercially. Detergents, dry-cleaning solvents and laundry equipment can damage or degrade panels.
- Use chemicals, other than those specified by the manufacturer. Bleach or starch, even when highly diluted, may reduce the protection level.
- Rinse, soak, submerge or spray panels. Superficial smudges, marks or soiling remaining on the outer covering should not harm panel integrity.
- Dry soft armor panels outside, even in the shade, as exposure to ultraviolet light is known to cause degradation of certain types of ballistic materials.
DO: Follow general industry procedure for cleaning ballistic-panel carriers:
- Remove detachable straps and fasteners. If straps and fasteners are not detachable, place them in their secured position.
- Hand wash the carrier in cold water with a mild detergent for delicate fabrics (unless the manufacturer specifically recommends machine washing).
- Rinse the carrier thoroughly and hang up indoors to air dry (unless the supplier advocates machine drying).
DO: Store body armor as recommended by the supplier. General guidelines include:
- Store armor flat at room temperature in a dry, shaded place that minimizes exposure to direct light. Armor may be hung from a specially designed robust hanger made for body armor. Wire and wooden hangers may break or buckle under its weight. Turn the body armor inside out or open and lay flat to allow moisture to evaporate.
- Air dry damp armor prior to storage.
DON'T: Use any of the following methods of storage:
- Storing armor in a low airflow environment, such as the bottom of a locker.
- Storing armor where it has the potential of being exposed to extreme temperatures (hot or cold), such as the trunk of a vehicle or where it will be exposed to direct sunlight (rear window deck of a vehicle) for prolonged periods.
- Hanging armor by the carrier straps, which may cause the straps to stretch and lose their original shape and fit, resulting in the armor's not being held in the right position to provide maximum coverage and protection.
- Adapted from Selection and Application Guide to Ballistic-Resistant Body Armor for Law Enforcement, Corrections and Public Safety. NIJ Selection and Application Guide-0101.06, 2014.