With seven years in law enforcement under his belt, Ray Booska, CEO of CoolVest, knows what it's like to be uncomfortable beneath pounds of body armor. "The guys I went to school with and was in the army with, still in law enforcement, made a career out of complaining how hot it is," he recalls. "Knowing that I make cooling vests for 13 years [they said] 'Well, why can't you make something that we can use with body armor?' "
Because concealable body armor fits the body so closely and tightly, adding an additional cooling vest is liable to restrict an officer's movement and get in the way. "You really couldn't do it," says Booska. "It might work out for the guys sweating in Iraq, but a cooling vest under concealable armor is more of a trick when outfitting a regular road cop." To make it work, Booska did away with the concept of a separate cooling vest, and instead fashioned cooling panels that fit underneath any brand of armor, so that armor doesn't have to be modified.
Booska began making the Cool Armor about three years ago when a government contact requested an accessory to body armor that would provide cooling for special purposes. "We sort of went from there and turned it into a consumer product," recalls Booska.
To get a cool feel — even under concealable armor — users can insert the cooling panels into the side of a rectangular cloth carrier that fits to the body with elastic straps and Velcro. The elastic straps come out the arm holes on the body armor, and the unit attaches to itself outside the front of the chest.
"Some people wear them in the front and the back; some people just wear it in the front … it's a personal preference," says Booska. Law enforcement officers who seek extra comfort on duty can even prepare a couple panels the night before their shift, throw them in a cooler in the trunk of their car and swap them out throughout the day. According to Booska, the panels take about 15 minutes to recharge and offer hours of on-the-job temperature control.
Designing uniform attire could create fish-in-a-barrel circumstances, since wearers frequently have little say or choice. An officer's uniform shouldn't be a great burden on his or her back. Thankfully, modern uniform manufacturers are taking note of what end-users call for and what management requires and as a result, creating options that meet needs on both ends.
No matter the form of the uniform, manufacturers emphasize that they take their task seriously to lift that burden.
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