Body Armor Safety Initiative

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Summit Information > Answers

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 Has the cause of the Forest Hills (PA) vest failure been determined?

  • NIJ has performed a statistic-based series of ballistic tests on artificially-aged armors in an effort to determine the cause of the Forest Hills, Pennsylvania, incident in which a unit of NIJ-compliant body armor failed to prevent penetration from a bullet it was designed to defeat. These armors were artificially weakened to match the condition of the rear panel of the Forest Hills officer's armor. No penetrations occurred during this testing, so NIJ cannot draw any definitive conclusions at this time regarding the cause of the failure.
    Through tests and research conducted to-date, several factors have been identified that may have contributed to the failure:
    1. The front panel of the officer's armor-not available for analysis because it was needed as evidence for the criminal prosecution-may have been significantly weaker than the rear panel. Thus, the aged armors may not have been accurately representative of the panel that failed.
    2. NIJ relied on tensile strength as an indicator of ballistic strength.other mechanical properties might also influence ballistic strength.
    3. Bullets might be more likely to penetrate regions of mechanical damage caused by folding, flexing, abrasion, etc.
    4. The moisture content in the interior of the officer's panel at the time of the incident is unknown. The presence of moisture in an armor panel can influence ballistic resistance.

  •  Other Related Questions

  • Now that the Department of Justice has provided findings on the evaluation of upgrade kits, what should law enforcement agencies and officers do if they are concerned with the performance of their upgrade kit and armor?

  • We have heard that armor performance may degrade as a result of exposure to heat, moisture, light, and wear and tear. How does one know if the armor's performance may have degraded and may no longer provide adequate protection?

  • What is the Body Armor Safety Initiative and how does it benefit law enforcement agencies?

  • When will the Department of Justice complete its testing of Zylon®-based body armor and provide the public safety community with the definitive answers on the performance of Zylon®-based body armor?

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