Impressions of the F.A.S.T #1155 vest:
First let me explain why we require two radio pockets in our radio vests. In our city, we have Community Emergency Repose Teams, called CERT, that are expected to carry a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio. These community volunteers are not required to have radio licenses. We just want them to give aid and assistance to their neighbors in case of an emergency. We expect these CERT workers to begin their rescue activities at home or at work because some forms of emergencies just happen way too quickly and these CERT people should just start giving aid when and where the problems occur. When any disaster takes place, you can pretty much expect that cell phone communications will not be effective. The cell towers might be taken out by earthquake, fire or other factors. If the cell phone systems are working, way too many people will suddenly try to use cell communications which overloads the systems. We need good reliable communications between our CERT volunteers and the city administration staff at the Emergency Command Center. We want a reliable backup to using cell phones. FRS radios seem to be the best backup solution for CERT workers because they are cheap and easy to use. But these radios have limited, 2 watt, power out. This means they do not transmit very far. Our next option is to put ham radio operators spotted about the city with their hand held ham radio and also operate a FRS radio to help the communications of the CERT people, reason for two radio pockets. These operators are called RACES which stands for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Emergency Service. These operators have to take National Incident Management Systems or NIMS training and need to pass a security check. It needs to be explained that even ham radio operators using their hand held radios do not have much range when connecting point to point. But, ham radio clubs and counties have a LOT of hill top repeaters which can offer way better communications. Ham radio operators can also use way more power and special antennas to extend their effective communications range. Our city ham radio operators have had CERT training so they can act as both aid giver and communications facilitator. This requires each ham operator to operate TWO radios, thus the need for two radio pockets. This radio vest explained below offers the user to put a hand held microphone for each radio and clip it close to their shoulders. In this way ham radio conversations will come to them from one side of the head and the FRS audio will come from the other side of the head which is important for the user knowing which radio traffic is which. There are a number of features that this vest offers that are really smart.
Now let me share with you why this radio vest is rather good:
• Military grade in that the material used for the fabric is thick. The stitching looks perfect. The zipper looks to be large and rugged. The design is impressive.
- The two side adjustment belts on each side, for adjusting humane body types, use thick bands and nice large plastic adjustment devices. For a really small body size, this vest might be too large.
- The reflective material is wide and nicely placed and encased in plastic. A bit weird that the side reflective band runs just above the jacket size belts and is held in place with Velcro. There is a slight adjustment for a really huge person to widen this reflective band out some.In the image below, a pencil holds back the large reflective band found on each side of the vest which can be adjusted a tiny bit for adjustment of operators girth.
- 4 zippered front pockets are provided that are really large each with a zipper. Each zipper has TWO sliders so you can open and close using both or one from each side. (See example below).
- There are 2 inside front pockets, (see image below) no zipper, just a flap on top but large. The top flap allows 8 inch wide material. It is 6 to 6 and 1/2 inches deep.
• The large rear plastic pocket can be used to slide in our your own identification “EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS” is empty and ready for us to make and slide in our own label. It is 9 and 3/4 inches from side to side and a tight 4 inches tall. A Velcro tab locks the open end.
• There are 2 more ID pockets in the front of the vest on each side and on the outside of the upper chest zipper pockets.
• The left side ID pocket is the size for a driver’s license (see image below).
It is roughly 3 and 1/2 inches wide and 2 and 1/8 inches tall. This is the only pocket that might collect rain because it’s opening is on the top. I imagine this being used for government or company ID card.
• The right side ID pocket, (see below) perfect to identify the person’s job or the user’s call sign if a ham radio operator and name. It is open on the inside next to the zipper and allows a 5 and 1/4 by 2 and 1/2 inches card to be inserted.
There are two eyelet D rings on either side of the vest back bottom, which I can not figure out what you would use them for.
The 2 radio pockets are high on the vest, one one each side. Each radio pocket is angled slightly away from the person’s head so the antenna aims a bit outward. The pockets are 6 inch deep. I put my huge Icom O2AT brick radio into the pocket and it fits, but tight (see image below).
•Now you would think that a small radio would sink deep into the 6 inch deep pocket but they provided a very clever placed fabric band just below the pocket top so a short radio with
a belt clip can be hooked into that short black loop. Each pocket has a rope starting at the top of the radio pocket with a Velcro strap at the end to lock in each radio. If the radio operator bends over, his or her radios will not spill out. This is especially important when on water in a boat.
• At the top of the vest, on each side, is a Velcro strap located close to the top of the humane shoulder. (see image below).
I found that I could slide my very long antenna under that strap. Then, I discovered that the Velcro strap can be lifted and an antenna can be laid down and the Velcro can be reset back in place so locking a long antenna from flapping around. The second method seems way faster.
• I have a HT microphone on a cable and it clips perfectly to the Velcro strap and the placement is perfect for hearing and talking. Now that is really functional and smart!
• Each radio pocket has a small fabric extension on the side close to the zipper for putting in a pencil or pen. I found that it is too thin for my favorite pen on one side but OK for a pencil. On the other side the opening is big enough for a large pen or pencil. I think the person who stitched up the vest made one pen holder smaller by mistake (or not).
One rather strong observation that I found, and this is my opinion, is that it seems to me that putting the radios in the pockets, placing antennas and wired microphones is way easier with the vest taken off.
It is expensive but I am impressed with the total package. There are a few surprises that I was not expecting:
- The fabric and finish that looks like the guards at a US Marine base, would wear this, being military tough. In a hot climate, this may be a deficiency. In cold climate it is a plus.
- The radio pocket having a belt inside top for short radios was a real clever solution.
- The radio pockets are slanted a bit away from the head and the Velcro bands both keep long antennas from hitting the head.
- The Velcro and fabric loops at the top shoulders for microphones seems perfectly placed and a clever solution for hand held microphones to be mounted near the wearer’s ears.
- All the identification pockets are made to be quickly replaced with new up to date information. In this way, fewer vests need to be purchased for two or three shifts of emergency personnel switching out vests.
- The pencil and pen holders was not expected.
- The rear plastic D loops, I have no idea what they are for.
- For me, this radio vest goes way beyond the basics to make using our radios way easier and performing tasks easier. It is an asset, not a hindrance.
Note: This web site and author receives no payment for this review.
F.A.S.T. First Aid & Survival Technologies Limited
This vest is made to order in Canada. Pricing is in Canadian dollars. There is an exchange rate difference.
Address: 8850 River Rd, Delta, BC V4G 1B5, Canada
Phone: +1 604-940-3222; 1-888-710-3278.
Note that these products can take two or more months to receive.
Posted: September 13, 2018.