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More than an outfit. More thought than one leg at a time. Putting on the uniform is not just an ordinary daily task, but a habitual part of preparing for the unexpected. Yes, a firefighter’s uniform is more than an outfit. Think about who is wearing it and the risks they are exposed to on a daily basis. The firefighter comes from a long line of heroes, a brotherhood and sisterhood, with traditions to uphold and a reputation to maintain. Their uniform is no different. Its historical navy-blue threads. Classic, professional appearance. Tactical features. Technology-driven fabric. Over time, the uniform’s engineering has needed to adapt with new designs and react to worsened exposures and more dangerous rescue missions. The 21st Century firefighter’s uniform is unique and specific to the job with current trends fixating on the best user experience while future plans focus on preventative and safety measures due to increased societal and architectural risks. Comfortable firefighter uniform So, what does the 21st Century firefighter want? Comfort. Beyond Personal Protective Equipment, it is an overwhelming plea for a more comfortable uniform to wear. This includes garments that are easy “wash and wear” materials that do not require additional ironing. Firefighters do not want to lose the professional appearance or tactical functionality of the uniform The trend calls for lightweight, breathable, cool-weather wear that is less restrictive and offers more give and more stretch so firefighters can perform their job responsibilities more efficiently. However, they do not want to lose the professional appearance or tactical functionality of the uniform. “We need something that looks presentable every time,” said Chief Robert Burdette of Grand Blanc Fire Department, Michigan. Additionally, more firefighters are also starting to wear polo shirts or mesh T-shirts under their Turnout gear, for a lighter weight, more breathable option from the traditional uniform shirt. The trend calls for lightweight, breathable, cool-weather wear that is less restrictive Risk of cancer Unfortunately, comfort is not the only concern firefighters have when it comes to uniforms, or their safety in general. As risky and demanding of a profession the fire service can be, the fires have proven not to be the most hazardous or life threatening. According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, “Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today.” A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that firefighters have a 9% increased chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% increased chance to die from cancer compared to the general United States population. Chief Dennis Jenkerson of the St. Louis Fire Department in Missouri is one of many chiefs actively fighting these statistics. Responsible for 32 firehouses, Jenkerson has witnessed the reality of this threat with the loss of four of his own and understands the validity of the situation. For the last 18 months, the St. Louis Fire Department has made headway implementing a drastic culture change by evaluating everything from equipment, apparel, lifestyle and more. Cancer affecting firefighters “It is so prevalent that everything we do anymore has to do with some emphasis on protecting firefighters from getting cancer,” said Chief Mike Ramm of Sylvania Township Fire Department, Ohio. “Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today” According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, the cancers that have mostly affected firefighters are respiratory (lung, mesothelioma), gastrointestinal (oral cavity, esophageal, large intestine) and kidney. “Testicular cancer is through the roof,” added Jenkerson, who has pushed his firefighters to get tested for cancers earlier than normally necessary. He also explained that the imagery of a firefighter drinking from a fire hydrant can no longer happen. He emphasized the importance of cleaning up instantly after every fire. Think of the simple act of removing grimy gloves after a call – at least one hand has been exposed to the cancerous contaminants if it was accidentally used to take off the other glove. If that unwashed, contaminated hand touches food that goes into the mouth of the firefighter, he/she is essentially eating what may cause esophageal, oral cavity or gastric cancers. Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) via the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, cancer caused 61% of the career firefighter line-of-duty deaths from January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2017. Additionally, 70% of the line-of-duty deaths for career firefighters were because of cancer in 2016. Unfortunately, this hazard is not going away any time soon. The new building materials and new house furnishings have become the culprit for this major concern. These materials are man-made and are not of natural resources. When burned, they create deadly carcinogens that the firefighters are getting exposed to firsthand. Immediate decontamination process Jenkerson’s implementation of a culture change includes an immediate decontamination process following a fire, which involves getting hosed with water, cleansing wipes for all soft tissue areas of the body and an immediate shower back at the station. “Any place you can get a five degree rise in skin temperature, the absorption level goes up 10 times,” Jenkerson warned. His firefighters are instructed to remove their bunker gear, uniform, helmet and all other equipment right away that get immediately washed once they have returned to the station. Hems, collars, cuffs and cargo pockets are areas of the uniform where toxins get caught He also restricts all firefighters and EMTs from going on a second run until they have showered and have put on a new, clean set of clothes, all the way down to their underwear. “There are no two-runs. We have to get this stuff off [of them].” Uniform manufacturers are tasked with finding a solution to help facilitate Jenkerson’s and other Fire Chiefs’ visions by designing a uniform with as little gaps and fold-over materials as possible. “Everything needs to be sealed tight,” Jenkerson explained. Hems, collars, cuffs and cargo pockets are all areas of the uniform where toxins get caught. A lightweight shirt option that offers a crew collar with a two to three button placket and a lightweight, ventilated hidden cargo pant could be the future of fire uniforms. “There isn’t another profession that has the thousands of dangers that we have every day,” Ramm explained. Additional and ongoing efforts currently underway according to the NFPA Journal, include those by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, the Congressional Firefighter Cancer Registry, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the FPRF Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control, and the International Association of Firefighters. Active shooter emergency response Firefighters and EMTs increasingly need to wear bullet proof vests with the surge in active shooter calls An additional and unfortunate trend that is also sweeping the nation is the need for firefighters and EMTs to wear bullet proof vests. Departments are trying their best to arm their men and women with this protection along with ballistic helmets in certain regions due to the surge in active shooter calls. “In areas that have a lot of gang-related activity, [bullet proof vests] would be beneficial,” said Jason Reyes of Allen Fire Department, Texas. “Sometimes you go on calls when the city doesn’t have enough police to respond to calls, which creates a situation that leaves firefighters unprotected and vulnerable.” Currently the market has ballistic vests available that can either be worn over or under a firefighter’s uniform and under their bunker gear. Uniform manufacturers also offer an external vest carrier option that is worn over a firefighter’s uniform to look like part of the uniform shirt to maintain a professional appearance. Distinguishing firefighters from law enforcement “Firefighters find themselves becoming targets more and more these days,” added Deputy Chief of Operations Dwayne Jamison of Bartow County Fire Department, Georgia. “Many departments, including my own, are looking to outfit their firefighters with bullet proof vests.” Although this trend has not affected every region, industry experts can see the need becoming more widespread if threats continue to increase the way they have been. Along the same lines, firefighters want to be identified as firefighters and not mistaken for law enforcement. “We don’t want to look like police,” Jenkerson said. “We want to be identified as firefighters. Even if it takes a different stripe.” When it comes to uniform trends for firefighters, it is clear there is more to focus on than the technical details. For many fire departments, future trends could serve as a tool to prevent deadly toxins from being absorbed and from lethal bullets puncturing unprotected firefighters and EMTs. The uniform is more than an outfit. With a larger purpose than to shield a body, the uniform goes beyond the navy-blue threads, professional appearance and tactical features to one day supporting what could be a lifesaving concept. Sources Firefighter Cancer Support Network, Preventing Cancer in the Fire Service National Fire Protection Association, Firefighters and Cancer NFPA Journal, Fast Track: Some of the national efforts underway to fight cancer in the fire service; Roman, Jesse; 2017
The latest personal protection equipment (PPE) are being designed to meet new regulatory standards Marine firefighting encompasses activities to extinguish any type of fire in a marine environment. For many years, this meant dealing with fires on seagoing vessels, or more specifically, shipping. In this article, Richard Cranham, International Sales Manager at Bristol Uniforms, sheds light on the various fire hazards at sea and the latest protection outfits designed to meet new regulatory standards. Nature of marine fire hazards At one time, marine fire risks were primarily associated with shipping and the vessels or their cargoes. In the 21st century, however, the seas and oceans are increasingly becoming sites for static structures. Many of these are associated with oil, gas and other mineral exploration and harvesting. Clearly the range of fire hazards associated with these different activities varies widely. In some situations, firefighters will be able to work onboard, depending on the severity of the fire, but, following a blow out or explosion aboard an oil rig or gas production platform, fighting the ensuing fire may only be possible from firefighting vessels. Also, the characteristics of the fires facing firefighters will reflect the volatility and flammability of the materials involved in the conflagration. Some materials burn much hotter than others. Some will throw off burning shards or molten materials, some can be unpredictable either due to the composition of the flammable materials involved (in particular hydrocarbons and chemicals) or prevailing weather conditions. Wind speed and direction can be particularly variable out at sea and can cause rapid changes in the levels of hazard experienced by firefighters. Personal protection equipment (PPE) to suit the conditions As with land-based firefighting, the type of personal protection equipment required is increasingly being designed to protect against the specific nature of the fire hazards most commonly encountered. New marine firefighting standards introduced for use throughout Europe equate the hazards, if not the conditions, associated with typical shipping fires with those commonly experienced in structural fires. This has led to the new Marine Equipment Directive (MarED) standards, enshrined in EU Commission Directive 2010/68/EU, to adopt EN 469 (2005) as its benchmark for basic protective clothing for firefighting (A.1/3.3). This means that, throughout the EU, local fire & rescue authorities can deal with ship-board fires occurring in rivers, docks and coastal waters wearing their regular structural fire kit. As with all PPE, compatibility is important and appropriately matched helmets, boots and gloves should be supplied For parts of the world outside the EU, a new international standard has recently been developed. The new standard, BS ISO 22488:2011 [Ships and marine technology – shipboard firefighters’ outfits (protective clothing, gloves, boots and helmet)], has drawn substantially on the work undertaken for the recently issued European Standard. Close proximity firefighting involving gas and oil fires requires protection from the intense heat and flames produced in such ‘hot fires’ and call for quite different types of protective clothing. In some circumstances this type of firefighting will require PPE satisfying ISO 15538 (2001) - Protective clothing with a reflective outer surface (A.1/3.3). New PPE designs to meet new standards Yellow outerlayer on marine firefighting garments signify its use by emergency incident crews battling different types of fires at sea. Garments meeting EN 469 (2005), as used by European municipal firefighters, can also be deployed by them when dealing with shipping fires on river estuaries, in ports and docks and in coastal waters. For fighting fires involving shipping at sea, and for other marine fire emergencies, an alternative is the new design fleet suits which are being introduced to coincide with the implementation of the new EU Commission Directive. As with all PPE, compatibility is important and appropriately matched helmet, boots and gloves should be supplied. In Europe, these should be to MarED approved standards, and include firefighting helmet to EN 443, gloves to EN 659 and firefighter boots to EN 15090 whilst the new international standard, BS ISO 22488:2011, when introduced, may be adopted in other parts of the world. Richard CranhamInternational Sales ManagerBristol Uniforms
Globe, DuPont Protection Solutions (DuPont), and the National Volunteer Fire Council teamed up once again in 2018 to distribute 52 sets of turnout gear to 13 volunteer or mostly-volunteer fire departments. This annual program began in 2012 to provide departments in need with new turnouts to better protect their personnel. Shinbone Valley Fire and Rescue (Delta, AL) and the Barnsdall (OK) Rural Fire Department are the final 2018 gear recipients. Shinbone Valley Fire and Rescue has 16 volunteer firefighters. All are operating with turnout gear that is over 10 years old, which is not recommended according to national safety standards. The department responds to multiple calls a year, including mutual and automatic aid. Training exercises Calls coupled with monthly training exercises and a yearly visit to the Alabama Fire College has left their expired gear very worn, which puts their members at risk. Volunteers do their best to use their oldest and most worn gear for training exercises to preserve the newer sets for structure fires and vehicle incidents. The department actively fundraises to keep up with operation costs but has found it difficult to purchase new gear to ensure the safety of their responders. This new gear will help our dedicated team to have the protection they need when they are in the trenches" “Receiving this gear gives peace of mind to our firefighters and the people we serve,” said Assistant Chief Travis Strickland. “Thank you to Globe and the NVFC for this donation. Your help goes a long way with our community and our department.” Purchase new gear Barnsdall Rural Fire Department serves over 1,100 residences across 122 square miles. Barnsdall is a rural location with an abundance of ranchland and homes, which make wildfires very prevalent. The department responds to an average of 80 calls each year and provides additional assistance to the city and surrounding fire departments. Only 10 of Barnsdall’s 24 volunteers have turnout gear, and all sets are over 10 years old and not compliant with recommended safety standards. Most of the department’s financial resources are utilized for equipment, leaving them unable to purchase new gear for their responders. “We want to ensure that our team has the best chance to do a good job and stay safe at the same time,” said administrative assistant Brittanie White. “This new gear will help our dedicated team to have the protection they need when they are in the trenches and extend our limited resources beyond what we are currently able to provide.”
Globe, DuPont Protection Solutions (DuPont), and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) have been working together since 2012 to provide new, state-of-the-art turnout gear to volunteer fire departments in need through the Globe Gear Giveaway program. In 2018, 52 sets of gear will be awarded to 13 departments to help better protect their responders. Providence (NC) Fire & Rescue and the Strong Volunteer Fire Company (Mount Carmel Township, PA) are the latest gear recipients. Providence Fire & Rescue is located in the northern Piedmont region of NC, approximately 50 miles northwest of Chapel Hill on the NC/VA state line. Provide Mutual Aid The department’s 29 volunteers run an average of 330 calls each year and provide mutual aid to surrounding departments and across state lines The department’s 29 volunteers run an average of 330 calls each year and provide mutual aid to surrounding departments and across state lines. However, almost half of the department’s responders use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is more than 10 years old, which is considered non-compliant according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) standards. Budget restrictions have left the department unable to purchase new gear and have also eliminated the department’s allowance for travel, decreasing their members’ opportunity to receive training unless classes are hosted locally. With a per capita income of only $16,470 and 14.4 percent of their small 3,400 population living under the poverty line, local fundraisers have not yielded enough funds to offset budget cuts. Fire-Related Hazard “In addition to training, this gear will enable our members and the members of our auto-aid departments the reassurance that they are using NFPA compliant PPE on any fire or fire-related hazard,” said Chief Kenneth R. Everett. “This will enable us to continue providing the members of our department safe, compliant PPE for years to come.” The Strong Volunteer Fire Company (VFC) is located near three heavily traveled highways and five state routes. The company has 25 volunteers who protect 3,300 residents over 22 square miles. They are first on-scene for all motor-vehicle accidents, structure fires, vehicle fires, wildland fires, and rescues and respond to two large industrial parks, an explosive plant, three mining operations, multiple schools and nursing homes, and dozens of smaller businesses. Firefighting Capabilities These four sets of gear will greatly improve our firefighting capabilities and provide a higher level of firefighter safety" The company is also very active in the community and hosts multiple fire prevention activities and fundraisers throughout the year to strengthen community support. Over half of the department’s responders do not have gear that meet recommended safety standards. Severe budget constraints have forced the department to buy used gear for its volunteers, and many members have purchased their own hoods and gloves. Additionally, the Strong VFC is expecting additional members soon because one neighbouring company is closing and a second may have to close as well due to financial and membership issues. “These four sets of gear will greatly improve our firefighting capabilities and provide a higher level of firefighter safety for our dedicated volunteers,” said Captain Kevin Mains. “We are trying to plan for additional new members and proper gear is a priority.”
Since 2012, Globe by MSA, DuPont Protection Solutions (DuPont), and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) have partnered to provide 403 sets of new, state-of-the-art turnout gear to fire departments in need – a value of over $920,000. An additional 13 departments will each receive four sets of gear in 2018. “MSA and Globe's mission is to see to it that men and women live and work in safety and health, and that speaks to the heart of exactly why we're proud to support the NVFC,” said Globe chief operating officer Tom Vetras. “Firefighters deserve nothing less than the very best personal protective equipment. Our Globe Gear Giveaway program – in partnership with DuPont – is just one of the ways we're happy to support the many NVFC initiatives that help improve volunteer firefighters' overall health, wellness, and safety.” Safety gear for the firefighters “Having standards-compliant, well-fitting gear is a critical component to keeping firefighters safe, healthy, and ready to respond,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “We appreciate the efforts and generosity of Globe, MSA, and DuPont to help departments keep our boots on the ground safe and protected through this invaluable program.” The first two recipients of the 2018 Globe Gear Giveaway are the Hindman (KY) Volunteer Fire Department and Cedar Fort (UT) Volunteer Fire Department. In addition to emergency response, the HVFD members provide fire prevention education to roughly 500 children in the community each year Hindman (KY) Volunteer Fire Department The Hindman Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) protects 2,000 residents in Hindman, KY, located in the eastern part of the state. The department is currently celebrating 50 years of dedicated service to its community. While funding for the department has decreased over the years due to a waning coal industry from which they formerly received support, their call volume has not. Despite budget constraints, the department strives to provide the best possible service. In 2017, the HVFD increased its Insurance Service Office rating from seven to four, which is the best rating it has had since the department’s inception. In addition to emergency response, members provide fire prevention education to roughly 500 children in the community each year. Protecting firefighters with better-quality gear To ensure the safety of its responders, each firefighter is required to complete the KY Fire Commission 150-hour certification. However, only 15 of the HVFD’s 24 volunteers have gear, and only five of those are less than 10 years old, meaning the rest don’t meet recommended safety standards and can’t be used during live fire training in the state. Often gear must be borrowed from one member to another to be able to perform the training, leaving responders on duty without compliant gear. “We are a great fire department with a young and dedicated membership,” said HVFD Chief James Preston Hays. “We have always tried to do the best we could with limited resources. Receiving this gear will be a great benefit to protect our firefighters and further improve as a department.” Receiving new sets of turnouts from the Globe Gear Giveaway program will improve the safety of Cedar Fort responders and allow the department to be more effective Cedar Fort (UT) Volunteer Fire Department The Cedar Fort Volunteer Fire Department is dedicated to serving and protecting the second largest response area in Utah County, which encompasses 214 square miles. 200 of those miles are open area where there are no paved roads and access is difficult; small blazes can quickly become a serious issue. The department is also responsible for Five Mile Pass, which is a popular recreation area designated for off-road and open-use. It is not uncommon to see thousands of people visiting the area on any given day. Cedar Fort firefighters are required to certify at Firefighter I and II and hazmat operations, so they are ready to respond. All 32 of the department’s firefighters have turnout gear; however, the gear was donated by a neighbouring department and all sets are over 10 years old and no longer compliant with national safety standards. With a limited budget, the department has been unable to afford the new gear its responders so desperately need. Receiving new sets of turnouts from the Globe Gear Giveaway program will improve the safety of Cedar Fort responders and allow the department to be more effective when protecting its community and visitors. Additional Globe Gear Giveaway awards will be made monthly throughout 2018.