Do EMTs Wear Bulletproof Vests?

The emergency services across the world wear Kevlar vests to protect themselves against assailants. Naturally, you’d expect a police officer to wear a ballistic vest, but what about an EMT?

In this article, we’ll go deeper into why some EMTs wear bulletproof vests and provide you with a couple of vest choices that are ideal for emergency responders.

Do EMTs Have to Wear Bulletproof Vests?

You’ll agree that out of all the emergency services, police need ballistic vests the most. After all, they are the most at risk in the line of duty. Although most police departments issue their officers bullet-resistant vests, they aren’t required to use them. The police union urges officers to wear protective vests, but they don’t have to.

In contrast, you wouldn’t expect EMTs to have to wear such protective gear – and you’d be right. EMTs aren’t required to use these vests, either. Even though bulletproof vests can be cumbersome and annoying, they still save lives. So, as an EMT professional, you might want to reconsider adding a ballistic vest to your list of field equipment.

Why Wear a Vest as an EMT?

Police officers are often seen wearing bulletproof vests because they engage in peacekeeping activities. These activities include dealing with violent criminals. Police officers could end up in extreme instances in gunfights, which is why wearing bulletproof vests can be lifesaving.

EMTs also deal with situations that include firearms. If they wear bulletproof vests, they are easily confused with police officers. This leaves them exposed to getting shot, which is why a protective vest can be crucial.

At the very least, every EMT should have a bulletproof vest stored inside the vehicle for any potentially dangerous situation.

Why EMTs Choose Not to Wear Vests

First, bulletproof vests are weighty. They include an armored plate (usually Kevlar) and are typically robust. Then, there’s the factor of heat and bulkiness. Even though these vests have become more comfortable over time, they are still relatively hefty and cumbersome. This is often the primary deterrent for most EMTs.

Then, there’s the factor of raising the threat level. As mentioned above, if an assailant sees a uniformed individual, they might mistakenly assume they are a member of the police. Add a bulletproof vest to the equation, and the EMT will resemble a police officer even more.

Should EMTs Wear Bulletproof Vests?

The benefits of wearing a ballistic vest while on-call outweigh the potential downsides. It’s the responder’s call, after all. The best course would be to wear the vest above the uniform so that the wearer can take it off while not on-call. If the on-off option isn’t possible for whatever reason, it’s still recommended that you wear a bulletproof vest.

Body Armor Types

Every EMT should be aware of the different levels of ballistic protection out there. Type I protects against .22 LR or .380 ACP rounds. It’s very lightweight and a frequent choice of EMTs. The II-A protects against 9mm and .40 S&W rounds. It is slightly heavier than type I but offers better protection. Type II protects against 9mm rounds and .357 Magnum rounds. This type is probably the upper limit an EMT should aim at.

Other types, such as III-A, III, and IV, offer advanced protection levels that might be overkill for most EMTs. Still, an III-A is probably a good choice for an EMT operating in a rough area. Type IV protection, for instance, offers armor-piercing rifle protection. This is a lot, even for SWAT.

EMT Body Armor Examples

There are two bulletproof vests that we’d like to mention that are great for EMTs.

The first is the Spartan Armor Systems Lightweight Century Plate Carrier. As the name suggests, it’s a lightweight piece of body armor that boasts a performance fit while still holding standard plates. It has an emergency drag handle, the interior is padded mesh, and there are quick-release buckles, making it ideal for on-and-off use. Plus, the plate pockets are easy to access.

The second example is a bit more of a heavyweight. The Spartan Armor Systems Tactical Level III-A Wraparound Vest is a III-A certified body armor that is quite the juggernaut. Still, it comes in five sizing options for maximum comfort: small, medium, large, X-large, and XX-large. Its modular system can accommodate additional accessories, which might be great for tactical purposes. Still, EMTs can use it to store various pouches and free up their hands.

Other Types of Body Armor

Bulletproof vests are also known as “ballistic protection.” Although these might be a good idea for EMTs to have, there are other protective vest types to consider.

Edged Blade Protection

Ballistic vests offer protection against various bullets. However, a knife can cut through the fabrics of a bulletproof vest, despite a bullet not being able to do so. You might want to consider getting edged blade protection as an EMT.

Spike Protection

Long nails, needles, screwdrivers, ice picks, stilettos, they can all penetrate your body armor, even if you have edged blade protection. These items (potential weapons) have a small surface that can easily pierce between the tiny spaces on body armor. This is what spike protection vests are for.

Multi-Threat Armor

The best way to go when looking at protective vests would be to combine all three different types. As an EMT, you may not need protection against high-caliber bullets. Still, you’ll want your vest to protect you against knives and improvised weapons. For that reason, a combination, like a multi-threat armor type, might be the best choice.

EMTs and Bulletproof Vests

There are many reasons why every EMT should at least have a bulletproof vest ready inside their service vehicle. You never know what you might encounter each day on duty. Although even the most lightweight vests can’t be regarded as “comfortable,” safety always comes first.


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Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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