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Dyneema campaign: EMS workers need body armor

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Gary Critzer of Point Blank Firearms Training demonstrated the bullet-stopping capabilities Monday of body armor produced with DSM Dyneema fabric, manufactured in Pitt County. The outer covering was shredded by the force of multiple gun blasts, but the inner Dyneema fabric was not penetrated.


Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Greenville manufacturer that makes lightweight material for protective body and vehicle armor has started a multi-year campaign to demonstrate how body armor could help protect emergency medical responders who are increasingly called into the line of fire.

DSM Dyneema launched the nationwide campaign Monday at the start of National EMS week by bringing first responders from throughout the region to its North American manufacturing facility to learn about Dyneema fiber products they could benefit responders in the event of active shooter incidents and other emergencies.

“There has been a significant mindset change for fire and EMS personnel,” James McArthur, coordinator of Pitt County Emergency Medical Services, said at the event. “Threats to first responders are very real. Isolated encounters in urban, rural and suburban settings have been occurring for a long time and have been underreported. We need to know how to deal with them. Today, we learn about some of the new technologies that are available from Dyneema to the public safety community and try to figure out our capabilities and some of the available funding sources to outfit our responders with this equipment.”

Patrick Smith, DSM communications manager, thanked all visitors for their service in an “increasingly dangerous job.”  As first responders encounter evolving threats and procedures change for responding to dangerous circumstances, Dyneema will work to ensure access to the equipment and training that meets today’s needs, Smith said.


Guest speaker Greg Chapman, a recognized expert on the topic who has served as chairman of the Prehospital Trauma Life Support Committee for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, led an active discussion on challenges facing professionals in the field including the Rescue Task Force approach to responding to active shooter situations.

The RTF model focuses on the immediate treatable needs of the victims of mass violence, rather than waiting for the scene to be secured while victims possibly bleed to death or succumb to airway obstruction, Chapman said. In such circumstances, body armor protection is equally important for rescue personnel, who perform their duties unarmed and protected only by the law enforcement officers they accompany.

“Law enforcement has known for a long time about protective body armor, but EMS has been out of that realm, and it’s not something medical personnel wear to work,” Chapman said. “DSM Dyneema certainly has stepped up with their support for first responders. Their fabric is extremely lightweight and provides extremely good protection.”

To show just how good the protection is, the group traveled from north Greenville to Pitt Community College's law enforcement firearms training area for a live-ammunition shooting demonstration.

A professional firearms handler from Point Blank Firearms and Self Defense Training demonstrated the performance capabilities of several levels of DSM Dyneema's new armor technologies against an array of high-caliber handguns and long arms.

Harnett County Emergency Services Director Jimmy Riddle said the greatest challenge eastern North Carolina EMS agencies face is how to afford the life-protecting products on a rural county’s budget.

“We just want to be prepared for any type of incident, but funding is the biggest barrier,” Riddle said. “We hope that having the spotlight on EMS people this week will raise public awareness and hopefully generate some funding sources.”

DSM’s Smith said his company will offer its public support for agencies like Harnett County’s.

“Because there is so little awareness about the dangers that first responders face, we’re going to advance this issue on their behalf and make sure the appropriate people in government and the community understand and can keep up with equipment changes as their policies change,” Smith said. “We’d like them to wear our product, the best there is to offer, but regardless, we want them to have some protection.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.