This section defines required safety equipment for Soft Airgun/Airsoft training and exercises.
All personnel participating in the exercise in either the Hot or Warm zones (the "safety zone") shall meet minimum requirements for safety equipment while the scenario is running. This includes participants using simulated weapons, role players, evaluators, observers, and safety officers. The safety zone shall be clearly marked with signage saying, for example, "Safety Masks Only Beyond This Point". Caution tape, cones, or other markers shall be used to clearly delimit the area of the exercise. It shall be the responsibility of safety officers and observers to monitor the boundaries and call a halt to the scenario if any individual without safety equipment enters or any individual within the zone removes their equipment while the exercise is in progress.
These requirements apply to equipment provided by the Auxiliary, equipment provided by the organization hosting an exercise, and any equipment provided by volunteers. Any equipment not meeting these procedures, subject to exceptions detailed below, shall not be used in training or exercise.
Personnel without safety equipment (such as medical responders for real-world injury) shall not enter the safety zone unless a halt has been called to the scenario and all participants have gone to their stand-down positions (as described elsewhere in these SOPs/SOGs).
Where these procedures conflict with the rules of a particular scenario, for instance, where the exercise is being conducted by an organization other than the Sheriff's Auxiliary, safety equipment of LCSA volunteers shall meet the more stringent of the two standards. In other words, if the LCSA standard requires mouth protection and the organization responsible for the exercise does not, volunteers shall wear mouth protection. If the our safety requirements conflict with the requirements of the exercise scenario, the designated LCSA safety officer shall make a determination as to the rules which shall be followed for that scenario. If the safety officer declines to make such an exception, then LCSA volunteers shall not participate in the exercise scenario.
As noted above, the designated LCSA Safety Officer for an exercise may approve one-time exceptions to these safety rules necessary to the conduct of the exercise due to conflict between the rules of different organizations. The Safety Officer, with prior-approval of command staff, may also give written approval to equipment for experimental or exploratory use. For example, a safety officer may designate a specific mask as acceptable for experimental use in a particular exercise or exercises. The safety officer may also designate any equipment as not acceptable for a specific event, even if it would normally be allowed according to these procedures. It is expected that such exceptions will be common as the SOPs are being developed and refined.
The Auxiliary shall maintain a list of any equipment which has been discovered to be unsafe or not meet standards even though sold for Airsoft/Paintball use. Any equipment so listed shall not be permitted at training/exercise events.
All personnel inside the safety zone during an active scenario shall have:
- Eye protection rated for Soft Airgun/Soft Airsoft or Paintball use. Any ANSI-Compliant safety googles shall also be acceptable. Equipment known not to withstand .2g BBs at 500 fps from 5' (muzzle-to-mask) without significant degradation shall not be used.
- Neither ANSI-compliant safety glasses (non-sealed) nor metal mesh eye-protection shall be acceptable by themselves. Metal mesh eye protection shall be acceptable if compliant safety glasses, with side-shields, are worn underneath the mesh. This shall also provisionally include 3-weapon fencing masks (foil, epee, schlagger) with approved safety glasses underneath.
- If the eye protection does not cover the entire face, a lower half-mask designed for Airsoft/Paintball use shall be used, covering the mouth and nose. If the mask includes a grill, none of the holes may permit a regulation BB to enter.
- Ear protection. If the mask covers the ears, this shall suffice. Otherwise, soft inserts or external muff-type shooters' ear protection shall be used. Ear protection is intended to protect against BBs accidentally lodging in the ear canal, but also protect against the noise of gas-operated airguns and distraction devices (simulated explosives). In any scenario where loud distraction devices are used, hearing protection shall be used even if the mask covers the ears externally. Ear protection must be designed to permit the wearer to hear voices on the field, such that they may hear instructions from exercise staff and safety officers.
- Close-toed shoes, preferably standard duty boots. Athletic shoes or other footwear appropriate to the scenario may be used with approval of the safety officer.
Volunteers are to be encouraged to own their own safety equipment which they know fits them, which does not interfere with their ability to see, hear, and otherwise safely participate. The Sheriff's Office and Auxiliary will maintain stores of safety equipment, but these stores are primarily intended to be used as spares in case of loss or failure.
The following are recommended and may be required for exercise participants in designated scenarios:
- Knee and elbow pads. Any pads acceptable for CERT deployment shall suffice.
- Long sleeves and long pants.
- Gender-appropriate protection
All participants shall be checked to restrict prohibited items, particularly live firearms or other live weapons, from entering the exercise area. Participants shall be checked every time they enter the field, even if they leave and return after the event has started. This check should be conducted be in three stages:
- Participant checks his or herself.
- Participant is checked by his or her training partner.
- Participant is checked by safety personnel.
The checks are to discover equipment accidentally carried into the exercise area, not weapons deliberately concealed, so a frisk should not be conducted. Rather, the checks are a thorough walk-through to remind the participant of or discover anything they may have on their person. An example dialog and procedure is provided on pp 66 of "Force-On-Force Police Training Using Airsoft" by Luis E. Martinez, Outskirts Press, Inc., 2008 and should be used as a basis for checklists and exercise materials. A particular danger is that of a participant who leaves the exercise area to go to lunch, replaces an airsoft weapon with their service weapon, and returns to the exercise area. Exercise participants have been shot in precisely those circumstances, thus necessitating a check on every entry.
All volunteers shall have their clothing and safety equipment inspected at exercise check-in and prior to entering the safety-zone. Safety equipment shall be visually inspected by designated safety personnel for signs of wear or degradation, including the sufficiency of straps. The volunteer shall don the safety equipment on request and shall permit safety personnel to verify proper fit. Equipment passing inspection shall be marked or tagged as designated for the specific training or exercise. Equipment not so tagged shall be denied entry to the field. A safety officer or their subordinate may call a halt to the scenario at any time in order to reinspect any safety gear. Any exercise participant may call a halt to a scenario at any time in order to inform a safety officer of equipment failure or impending failure, for example, upon seeing a loose mask.