October 27, 2021 9 min read
If you’re a professional in the industry of saving lives, then you already know why a search and rescue helmet is a key staple in your kit. There are a lot of dangers in both urban and wilderness environments where you may be operating. Falling rocks, tree branches, destabilized structures, and believe it or not, even excessive noise are all things you can expect to encounter while trying to get people out of a bad situation. That’s why you need a helmet in these environments.
Safety is a mindset first, and your brain is your best tool at enacting it. That’s why we’re going to tell you everything we know about the search and rescue bump helmet today. In this article, you’re going to learn what makes a good SAR helmet, some applications of the bump helmet in SAR, how to setup your tactical rescue helmet, and what accessories we think you’ll need to best set your helmet up for success in the field.
Search and rescue work comes in a lot of different flavors. At the end of the day, most people working SAR need a lightweight bump helmet that’s versatile, modular, and prepared to take on a number of different tasks in a variety of different environments. If you can manage to check all of these boxes with a single helmet, then you’ve found a good search and rescue helmet that will fulfill your needs out in the field.
At the top of the list of priorities is lightweight. You need a lightweight search and rescue helmet because as stated above, your brain is your best tool. You’ll be wearing your lid for long periods of time while out in the field. You do not want a helmet that’s giving you hot-spots or causing neck fatigue. Also, you don’t want a helmet that’s uncomfortable to wear. These things, while minor inconveniences in the short-term, stack up to a lot of physical distraction while you’re out on an operation, which diminishes the ability of your brain to function at its peak capacity.
When it comes to versatility and modularity, you’re getting a win-win with your bump helmet. Having a helmet that can easily be reconfigured on the fly for the operational task at hand gives you the flexibility you need to be prepared for a wide variety of search and rescue operations. You’re already carrying a wide variety of specialty kit into the field. Some of it needs to go, some of it doesn’t. In current times, your SAR helmet can be a one size fits all tool that goes with you on every SAR operation. You no longer need multiple SAR helmets to fit a wide variety of tasks.
When you think of bump helmets in search and rescue work, the first chief task of the helmet is keeping the SAR person’s head protected at all times. An SAR person is expected to work in dangerous environments, and in those environments, there are a lot of things that could happen to compromise the integrity of a human skull. Beyond that, the scalp is very thin, easily cut, and full of blood vessels. When cut, the top of the head bleeds a lot. A simple cut on the top of the head from a falling tree branch could take an individual search and rescue professional out of the field immediately, leaving their team down one person or even worse, turning their operation internal.
Aside from that however, the bump helmet has many applications in search and rescue work now. The versatility of modern helmets allows the search and rescue professional to be better equipped with a wider variety of tools that allows them to find and evacuate people far more efficiently. For example, a bump helmet can now be equipped with a communications suite giving teams on the ground, and in the air, better situational awareness. On top of this, night vision devices and IR strobes can be equipped to the helmet, allowing searches to go on far past previous turn-around times.
A modern-day bump helmet is a force multiplier for search and rescue teams. This is because modern day helmets are better equipped than they have ever been before. Rail attachments and accessories, on top of line-of-sight and satellite communications equipment and night vision devices all act to give the individual search and rescue operator more capabilities than they have ever had in the past.
If you’re not from the tactical or sports shooting worlds, setting up a bump helmet for search and rescue might seem a little daunting at first. I assure you though, if you’ve got what it takes to get into SAR work, you can definitely can figure out how to set up a solid modern SAR helmet. So, let’s talk about how to set up a search and rescue helmet real fast.
Before we dig too much into the accessories and attachments that act as force multipliers for people working SAR, let’s talk about the most important part. The actual helmet itself. Now, in the world of bump helmets, you’re going to find a lot of tactical stuff. Many of them will come in camouflage patterns that don’t lend themselves to SAR work. Make sure the bump helmet you pick up is either already patterned in a high-visibility color scheme, or if all else fails you can grab one of the matte Earth tones and do your own paint job.
On top of the overall color scheme of the helmet, you may also want to pick up some reflective patches. These will increase your visibility from the air, and also help your teammates locate you. Use your team’s standard operating procedures when you’re setting up your helmet for visibility. You know the environment’s you’ll be working in far better than the writer of this article.
Now, let’s move into accessories and attachments you’ll definitely want to add onto your helmet to give you the edge out in the field. For all of the products below, you’ll be able to find a comprehensive guide on how to install it on your helmet over on our YouTube channel.
As stated earlier, modern helmets are far more versatile today than they were in the past. One of the great things about this versatility is the simple modularity involved with modern helmets today. It is not difficult to reconfigure your helmet based on the operational environment you’ll be conducting SAR work in. So, when setting up your helmet, make sure you think of all the possible environments you might find yourself working in, and purchase your accessories and attachments accordingly.
There’s a host of search and rescue helmet attachments on the market today, many which we carry ourselves. Below we’ll have our top picks for search and rescue helmet accessories listed.
One of the most important aspects to any type of operation is situational awareness. Situational awareness can be obtained through a myriad of practices, but one of the best ways to maintain it throughout the duration of a long SAR mission is stable communications. With modern bump helmets, gone are the days of holding a radio to the side of your head, or getting tangled up in messy wired in-ear systems.
Using a bump helmet, you can attach a lot of different modern communications headsets directly to you helmet. It doesn’t matter if you’re using military grade communication systems, or civilian-style handheld HAM radios for your operation. Chances are, there’s a way to connect your communication device to one of the tactical communication headset systems that is currently available on the market. Many of these also have the benefit of acting as hearing protection as well.
If you want to use one of these systems, you’re going to need search and rescue helmet rail adapters. We currently carry a rail adapter kit that fits a variety of headsets, and if your specific headset isn’t supported by our system, then we offer a secondary adapter as well. These systems will keep your headset firmly in place no matter what type of situation you find yourself in, and they also enable the user to quickly rotate the headset ear pieces off of their ears when they are not needed.
Hot spots, neck fatigue, and general discomfort can make or break long operations. In the field, you need to be on your A-game at all times. It’s hard to be on top of your game when the helmet you’re wearing to protect yourself is causing you a lot of distracting discomfort. That’s why your helmet pad setup matters a lot.
On top of the comfort provided by your helmet pads, there are also other benefits to a good padding system inside of your helmet. Impacts to your helmet travel directly through your helmet and into the pads. If your padding is insufficient, then you’re going to feel a lot more of that impact.
Currently, we offer our Comfort Plus padding system, which is super easy to install, and we use a two-layer system which allows the wearer to get a perfect fit with their helmet pads every single time. The first layer of the system is designed for added blunt and impact resistance, while the second layer of the system acts as a comfort layer comprised of a proprietary memory foam that provides all-day comfort.
On top of our Comfort Plus padding system, we just released the Mico-Lattice helmet pad system which has been in development for years through our partnership with Carbon® and their Digital Light Synthesis™ manufacturing process. Not only does the Carbon DLS™ process enable a lattice structure that absorbs and dissipates energy through the precise tuning of strut thickness and cell size, it’s also super comfortable when worn for long periods of time.
The Snapback Retention System is an easy addition to any SAR helmet. If you’re familiar with the dial style retention systems on a lot of hard hat systems out there, then you’ve probably encountered some failures in that style of system after having it for a long period of time. For us, we wanted to create a system that was far more simplified, and less prone to breakage.
Our SRS is super easy to install and gives the user a far more secure fit in the long run. It’s especially useful for search and rescue that goes through the night in emergency situations where time is of the essence, forcing the SAR person to use a night vision device.
The other large benefit of this simple upgrade is the cost. Unlike most of the dial retention systems on the market which can cost upwards of $100, the Snapback Retention System will run you $19.99, and once you have it in your hands, you’ll see just how easy it is to get it installed and fine-tuned for a perfect fit.
Night vision devices are expensive. Let’s also not pretend like every search and rescue job needs full coverage from a PVS-14 style device either. Sometimes, all you need to get the job done is a simple head lamp, and we have a direct solution for that as well.
The problem with traditional headlamps is that they’re usually attached to a headband of some sort. When you’re wearing a helmet, this can become problematic, as the elastic band tends to stretch, slip, or rip entirely causing you to lose the headlamp. That’s why we carry the Nitecore HC65M.
This simple headlamp connects directly to the night vision shroud that comes standard issue on every Hard Head Veterans helmet that we carry. It has a max brightness of 1,000 lumens, with a 120-yard throw, five brightness levels, 2 aux modes, and 4 special modes. It’s rechargeable via USB port with the included NL1834 battery and is IPX8 waterproof rated. If rechargeable is an instant kill for you on a flashlight, the device also works with standard CR123 batteries.
A search and rescue helmet setup with some of the accessories we described above is a serious force multiplier. Not only does the helmet provide the search and rescue provider with head protection that will prevent them from taking a serious head injury, but it also acts as a place to mount extra interchangeable equipment that can adapt to the situation as needed.
With modern helmets, gone are the days of needing several pieces of head protection for a variety of different situations. Now, a member of a search and rescue team can use the same helmet for a variety of different scenarios, which cuts back on the overall amount of equipment the individual SAR person needs to have stored in their gear locker.
The HHV Tactical ATE Bump Helmet was designed with Search and Rescue operations as one of its core purposes. Our bump helmet weighs 1.4 pounds and is manufactured from a polycarbonate blend that offers blunt impact protection far exceeding not only EN1385: 2012, but also AR/PD 10-02.
Each helmet comes standard issue with a set of M-Lok rails for mounting a variety of helmet accessories, and a night vision shroud with bungee connectors. On top of this, our Comfort Plus pads are also included with the system, ensuring that you will get a solid, stable, and comfortable fit every single time you put the helmet on for work.
You can check out our complete line of search and rescue bump helmets by following this link. If you’re currently an active duty first responder, or a prior service member from the military, be sure to reach out to us about our discount program which can further reduce the overall cost of getting your head protected.