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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
A firefighter needs to evaporate about 1 liter of sweat per hour to be able to regulate the body temperature when exposed to extreme heat. The human body is designed to function within a very specific temperature range between 36.5 and 37.5 Celsius. However, fighting fires test these limits and can increase a firefighter’s body temperature to over 38 degrees. Selection Of PPE While there are many factors to consider to reduce the impact of heat stress on firefighters – such as hydration and heat acclimatization – a major component of heat stress control is the selection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here, Reece Buchner, technical sales manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains what to look for when specifying PPE, to reduce heat stress while fighting fires. Insulation – Friend Or Foe Insulation is an important part of any firefighter kit, as it keeps the extreme heat away from the wearer, however, it also keeps the body heat in. People are aware that sweating is the best way for one's bodies to regulate the temperature, however for sweating to be effective, the air should be dry and moving, like when it’s windy. When it’s humid, there is less capacity within the air for vapor to leave the body and that makes sweating less effective. An enclosed and insulated fire suit without airflow may therefore not promote the ideal perspiration environment. Moisture Barriers Moisture barrier regulates body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible Moisture barriers play a crucial role in reducing the chance of heat stress. A moisture barrier is a type of material that lets vapor through and in some cases liquid (unidirectionally), making a suit breathable. When it comes to fire suits, this moisture barrier plays an important role in regulating body heat as it allows as much moisture vapor out as possible. Types of Barriers There are three types of moisture barrier product technology used in firefighters’ protective garments: microporous, monolithic, or bi-component. Each of these barrier technologies has a different level of effectiveness: A microporous membrane contains small passages or holes, which allows for air permeability and offers water vapor transfer by air-diffusion. A monolithic membrane is a continuous polymer layer without any passages (holes), and, therefore, does not have any air permeability. However, breathable monolithic moisture barriers use hydrophilic polymers which allow water vapor transfer through molecular diffusion instead. A bi-component moisture barrier product uses a combination of microporous and monolithic technologies and allows no air permeability. Ensure Mobility It’s important that fire suits are designed to be wearer friendly, whilst providing optimum protection. When selecting PPE consider how easy the suits are to move in, and bear in mind the different requirements of the team depending on the job at hand. PPE that is designed to provide increased mobility helps to reduce muscular strain, improves air circulation, and in turn heat stress. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing the risk of heat stress amongst the fire brigade, these are all important factors to consider to ensure the team’s PPE is working to minimize the danger.
The dangers of cancer-causing particulates have never been in sharper focus in firefighting than they are today. Indeed, firefighters are becoming more aware of the risks associated with their job and exposure to carcinogens. But are all firefighters aware of the different measures that should be taken to reduce their contact with particulates? Reece Buchner, Technical Sales Manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of life-saving garments for firefighters, explains five steps that can help to reduce exposure to harmful residuum. Research by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) suggests that fire contaminants on UK firefighters’ personal protective equipment (PPE) might have a link to higher cancer occurrences. PPE garments technology New garment technology such as Nomex Nano Flex tackles the risks caused by cancer-causing particulates Therefore, it’s crucial that firefighters are equipped with top-of-the-range PPE garments, and in particular fire hoods, that have been specifically designed to prevent these particulates from penetrating through the material and coming into contact with a firefighter’s skin. New garment technology such as Nomex Nano Flex tackles the risks caused by cancer-causing particulates and averages 95%-98% particulate filtration, which actually improves with repeated washes. Currently, skin absorption is thought to be the main exposure route. In fact, firefighters are at greatest risk of contamination after an incident - contaminants can come into contact with the skin or be inhaled as PPE and kit is removed. Firefighters need to be practised at personal decontamination immediately after leaving a hazardous area by removing PPE safely avoiding contact with exposed skin and even making sure they avoid putting their gloves in their helmet. smoky fire suit They should also take time to cleanse the most vulnerable areas of the skin - the hands, face, neck and throat. Traditionally, a smoky fire suit was a badge of honor for firefighters. However, with knowledge levels around harmful particulates ever increasing, so too is the understanding that garments must be frequently washed to reduce risk. Fire suits need to be properly laundered to ensure they are cleaned of any harmful substances, such as particulates, chemicals and asbestos. Contracting a regular cleaning service with an industrial laundry, either directly or through the customer’s PPE supplier, can ensure the team’s garments are cleaned in a safe and effective manner. It’s essential that PPE is inspected on a regular basis to look for any signs of wear and tear, or if it needs professionally cleaning. Fire suits should be checked for stains, damage to the fabric or seams, or unclear labeling, at the beginning of a firefighter’s shift and after heading out to any incident. professional repair services BS 8617 was published in October 2019 and gives very practical advice on particulate protection working practices If the brigade is arranging its own professional laundry services directly, it’s also important that the laundrette checks the garments during the cleaning process. A firefighting suit is only as strong as its weakest seam. These suits are made up of many layers and components, and if just one aspect of the suit becomes damaged, it can compromise the protection offered by the garment. PPE suppliers will often offer a care and maintenance package for firefighting PPE, to provide professional repair services in a quick and easy manner for busy brigades. BS 8617 was published in October 2019 and gives very practical advice on particulate protection working practices. For more information on firefighting PPE or how to optimize their customer’s protection against harmful particulates, visit the company’s official website. particulate protection The company understands that particulate protection is a very wide subject, in this article they are simply suggesting five practical things that can be done. The list is not exhaustive.
The letters ‘FR’ have many meanings, including flame resistant, flame retardant, fire resistant and fire retardant, but is there a difference? And which FR is the right FR for a particular firefighters and rescue team? The truth is, these terms are used interchangeably and there is no clear standard or definition that backs up any of these phrases. What matters when looking to choose the right FR protection for the team is understanding and specifying garments that meet the right FR and/or related standards. To help, Reece Buchner, Technical Sales Manager at FlamePro, a British specialist manufacturer of firefighter and other life-saving FR garments, explains some of the standards and regulations that a fire and rescue service needs to be aware of when deciding on the right PPE for their team. EN ISO 14116 - Protection against flame and clothing This standard applies to garments that protect against occasional and brief contact with small igniting flames, in circumstances where there is no significant heat hazard. Clothing manufactured to this standard is made from flame retardant materials so that if the material comes into contact with a flame, it will only continue to burn for a limited amount of time. After removal from the flame, the material will stop burning. Any garments that are compliant with this standard are given a limited flame spread index of 1, 2 or 3 Therefore, clothing in this category should not be worn to protect against convective heat, radiant heat and molten metal or similar higher risk hazards. Any garments that are compliant with this standard are given a limited flame spread index of 1, 2 or 3, in which index 3 is highest and provides the most protection. If the index is 1 (the lowest level), then the garment may not have skin contact (such as the neck or wrists), and can only be used outside a garment with an index 2 or 3 rating. EN ISO 11612 - Clothing to protect against heat and flame This standard is similar to 14116 above, however it offers a higher level of protection for wearers by ensuring protection against risks such as molten metal. The performance requirements set out in ISO 11612:2015 are applicable to protective clothing for a wide range uses, where there is a need for clothing with limited flame spread properties and where the user can be exposed to radiant, convective, contact heat or to molten metal splashes. It’s also worth noting that this standard has replaced the previous EN 531. EN 469:2005 – Protective clothing for firefighters EN 469:2005 provides the minimum requirements for protective firefighter garments, whilst fighting fires and any associated activities such as rescue work. The standard mainly covers how well the PPE can limit the spread of flames on both the outer shell and internal lining as well as its resistance to the penetration of heat from flames (or a radiant source) through all layers of the component material. There are two levels of the standard (1 and 2), with level 1 indicating the lower level of protection. ISO 18639 – PPE ensembles for firefighters ISO 18639 is specific to firefighters and does not cover PPE used to protect against chemical hazards The ISO 18639 series of standards specify requirements of PPE specifically designed to protect firefighters from injury and/or loss of life, while engaged in specific rescue activities. ISO 18639 is specific to firefighters and does not cover PPE used to protect against chemical and biological hazards, except against short term and accidental exposures while engaged in rescue activities. Because this standard covers so much, it is split into several sections, each covering the specific requirements for different firefighter PPE garments: ISO 18639 – 1 – General overarching guidelines ISO 18639 – 3 – Specifies test methods ISO 18639 – 4 - Gloves ISO 18639 – 5 - Helmet ISO 18639 – 6 – Footwear EN 1149-5 – Protective clothing with electrostatic properties This standard applies to garments worn by operatives who encounter risks of explosion (ATEX Environments), such as in petrochemical refineries and fuel distribution companies. The standard ensures any garments provide the wearer with electrostatic dissipative clothing with reduced risk of sparking – the outer fabrics of these garments are made from antistatic materials and components. The garment should be used as part of a total earthed system to avoid combustible discharges. The outer fabric of the garment must be anti-static (AST) and also has to cover all the other non-AST layers permanently. EN ISO 11611:2015 – Protective clothing for use in welding Class 1 protects against less hazardous welding techniques and situations As the name of this standard suggests, this standard is important to consider when specifying PPE for any workers that are to carry out welding, and other allied processes with comparable risks. This standard ensures garments provide protection against small splashes of molten metal, and brief contact with flame, only when a worker is undertaking welding or similar processes. Under this standard, garments are categorised into one of two classes. Class 1 protects against less hazardous welding techniques and situations, which cause lower spatter and radiant heat, whereas Class 2 protects against riskier welding techniques and situations, which causes higher levels of spatter and radiant heat. EN 15090 – Footwear for firefighters This standard specifies minimum requirements and test methods for the performance of three types of footwear for firefighters: General-purpose rescue (F1), fire rescue (F2) and hazardous materials emergencies (F3). The requirements for each category differ from each other, so it’s important to know the difference, when looking to purchase footwear. The key difference between this standard and the previously mentioned ISO 18639-6 is that ISO 18639-6 does not cover special footwear for use in other high-risk situations such as structural firefighting. General-purpose rescue footwear (F1) Footwear that is classed as type 1 (F1) is suitable for general-purpose rescue, fire suppression, and firefighting suppression involving a fire in vegetative fuels such as forests, crops, grass, and farmland. These garments are not required to protect against penetration, offer toe protection, or protect against chemical hazards, however these properties are optional. Fire rescue footwear (F2) Type 2 (F2) footwear is suitable for fire rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation in buildings, enclosed structures, vehicles, vessels, or similar properties that are involved in a fire or emergency situation. This footwear provides toe protection and protection against penetration, however it does not protect against chemical hazards. Hazardous materials emergencies footwear (F3) Type 3 footwear provides toe protection, protection against penetration and protection against chemical hazards Type 3 (F3) footwear applies for emergencies involving hazardous materials, the release or potential release of hazardous chemicals that can cause loss of life, injury, or damage to property and the environment. This category of footwear is also suitable also for fire rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation in aircraft, buildings, enclosed structures, vehicles, vessels, or similar properties, as well as all fire suppression and rescue interventions. Type 3 footwear provides toe protection, protection against penetration, and protection against chemical hazards. EN 659 – Protective gloves for firefighters EN 659 states the minimum performance requirements for protective gloves in all firefighting situations. More specifically, the standard details requirements for resistance to water and chemical penetration, making it applicable to not just firefighting but also workers on chemical sites and oil refineries and various other high-risk situations that are not covered by ISO 18639-4. The key difference between EN 659 and ISO 18639-4 is that the latter only relates to specific specialist rescue activities, such as road traffic crash and urban search and rescue, while EN 659 covers all firefighting situations. EN 443 covers firefighting helmets for uses in building and other structures. The European wide standard is in place to specify the minimum requirements for helmets to protect against the effect of impact, penetration and heat and flame.
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