Popular with fire-fighters around the world, XFlex is Bristol Uniforms’ flagship range in structural fire fighting (Personal Protective Equipment) PPE. Its name came from the ‘X’ shape formed by the curved seams on the garment’s elbow and its flexibility. It enables excellent range of movement which helps fire-fighters carry out their physical roles more effectively. The creation and introduction of XFlex into the market marks a new direction in fire fighting PPE design and application.

Ergonomic and comfortable PPE

Historically, (Personal Protective Equipment) PPE was made of heavy protective materials which could be hot and cumbersome to wear, hindering performance and increasing the risk of heat stress. Fire-fighters needed and wanted lightweight, breathable garments with improved flexibility and manoeuvrability, so they could carry out physical tasks more effectively.

Bristol Uniforms started to look at ways of making fire-fighting PPE more ergonomic and comfortable

With this in mind, Bristol Uniforms started to look at ways of making fire-fighting PPE more ergonomic and comfortable. In particular, they looked at what was happening in other industries where flexibility and manoeuvrability were key elements. They studied the latest designs and state-of-the-art fabrics being used to allow freedom of movement and breathability and applied these principles to their PPE designs.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) software

Drawing on this research, Bristol Uniform’s specialist technical designers developed new product designs using the very latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. Various designs were put forward, which differed in construction, fabrics, shape and look. Each design was assessed, and the preferred design refined.

During the process, the company also undertook ‘indicative testing’, which is independent testing of selected fabric layers to ensure they work effectively and meet the required standards.

XFlex structural fire fighting PPE

The resulting XFlex structural coat and trouser ensemble is particularly ergonomic, featuring distinctive sports styling. It was the first to feature a ‘spiral cut’ design. This means that none of the seams of the garment are straight, but instead follow the body’s curves and contours, there by allowing much more movement and flexibility.

The XFlex design also features shoulder shaping and under arm gussets, which allow full rotational arm movement, and ergonomic three-dimensional articulated elbows and knees.

Special fabric for enhanced fire resistance

XFlex features a select combination of fabrics offering resistance to fire, increased breathability and moisture control

XFlex features a select combination of fabrics offering resistance to fire, increased breathability, control of moisture, and a lighter weight – all of which maximise comfort and help to reduce the occurrence of heat stress.

Customers can choose from a selection of fabrics for the outer shell, which also come in a number of colour options - Hainsworth TITAN1260 fabric is available in gold, Hainsworth TITAN1250 in Paris navy, and a range of Hainsworth TITAN1220 fabric colours are available including blue, red, grey and tan.

WL Gore moisture barrier and liner systems

XFlex also comes with a choice of inner moisture barrier and liner systems from WL Gore, which serves to draw sweat and moisture away from the skin, helping to keep the body cool and dry. Recently, Bristol Uniforms introduced the ground-breaking Gore Parallon System as a new option for XFlex – a particularly light-weight solution that offers unprecedented levels of breathability and thermal protection, particularly when wet, helping to prevent dangerous increases in core body temperature.

When developing XFlex, Bristol Uniforms also took the decision to provide an extensive range of sizes, including a total of 28 male and female sizes available as standard. They also provide a comprehensive sizing procedure and have the capability to send specialist teams to undertake all measuring to ensure it is carried out correctly if necessary. Finally, XFlex has received accreditations from all three international standards-setting bodies - the European Standard of Certification (CEN), the International Standards Organisation (ISO), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

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A Look At Emerging Technologies In The Fire Protection Industry
A Look At Emerging Technologies In The Fire Protection Industry

Innovation in the fire protection industry can oftentimes be slow to move forward, particularly when compared to other similar industries. This is because legislation, regulation, and enforcement, while all necessary proponents within the sector, can often slow the tide of revolutionary ideas. However, the ability to innovate in this industry can quite literally be a matter of life and death. The developing intricacies of modern infrastructure and the demand for more sustainable solutions must also fuel the need for innovation. Fortunately, there are many companies at the forefront of technical and digital transformation within the industry. At the NFPA Conference in June 2019, much of the chatter revolved around Smart Connected Things (SCoT) within fire protection systems.  Smart Technology Smart Tech can offer more accurate, efficient inspections and testing, which on its own is capable of saving lives These systems are now being used by both building owners and service providers to determine fire protection system conditions as well as helping to perform some critical testing functions remotely - which of course has been invaluable in 2020. Smart Tech can offer more accurate, efficient inspections and testing, which on its own is capable of saving lives and protecting valuable property. For example, if a warehouse has been equipped with smart tech solutions to observe water pressure and flow rates within a building sprinkler system, users can have a real-time view of how much water has been flowing per minute. This means that should a fire break out in a particular part of the building the flow rate within the sprinkler can be routed to that specific area to put the blaze out as efficiently and as quickly as possible. Advanced Smoke Detection Fire protection brands have made huge leaps forward in their quest to develop smoke detectors which meet with the UL 268 Safety Standards for 2020. The new standard requires that all smoke alarms and detectors must meet two critical benchmarks: Increased responsiveness to the new polyurethane foam tests. Ability to distinguish the difference between smoke aerosols from accidental fire sources and smoke aerosols from cooking sources. Basically, domestic smoke detectors must be able to understand the difference between materials, based on the kinds of smoke they emit when they catch fire. Detectors must also distinguish between the smoke produced as a by-product of cooking, or a “nuisance” fire, and a real fire, which could pose a threat to human life. Smoke & Flame Video Detection The new alarms feature “TruSense Technology”, which is designed to be able to differentiate between fast and smoldering flames and common false alarms. These technologies were developed in the hope that homeowners wouldn’t just simply remove smoke alarms or batteries due to frequent false alarms. Video Image Smoke Detection technology has been around the industry for a few years now, but full video detection is now being used to supplement it, in order to further the applications of this technology. A video image will then be processed by the software that then concludes whether the clip contains smoke or flames This tech uses video-based analytical algorithms that integrate cameras into advanced flame and smoke detection solutions. A video image will then be processed by the software that then concludes whether the clip contains smoke or flames. 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Fire Service Training: Assessing & Auditing Behavioral Markers
Fire Service Training: Assessing & Auditing Behavioral Markers

It is well reported that incident numbers attended by the UK Fire and Rescue Services have reduced over the last decade, partially as a result of the improved fire safety education conducted by dedicated teams in community fire safety, and other related activities. In particular, during the period 2008-2018, there was a 20% reduction in total fire calls. However, in 2019, there was a small annual rise in the number of fires attended, and in particular, secondary fires. (Home Office, 2020). As a consequence, the total number of fires a firefighter will attend in a career starting in 2020 is likely to be significantly fewer than a firefighter who began their career in 1990. As such an alternative strategy is required to compensate for the reduced opportunities to ‘learn on the job’ in order to meet the same learning outcomes required of all roles, firefighter to chief fire officer. Clearly, this is not easy: fire environments are dynamic, multi-faceted, typically incorporate large volumes of “complex data” and are personnel or resource heavy to simulate accurately. However, the employment of hybrid reality, augmented reality and virtual reality training has demonstrated success across a number of services, and post-COVID-19 is likely to continue to rise in prevalence. firefighter operational training A significant proportion of firefighter operational training is centred on technical equipment use, and it is not always easy or possible to create a physical space where training with them is easy. Yet virtual worlds, with their limitless possibilities, allow us to create practically any scenario and with any combination of tools to use. The employment of hybrid reality, augmented reality and virtual reality training has demonstrated success across a number of services The introduction of new tactical options, such as cold-cut Cobra, or the Emergency One “E1 Scorpion” would traditionally follow a relatively slow uptake-arc, as only a certain number of operators can be familiar with it initially, and we would expect an increase in usage as awareness is gradually built up. However, in a virtual environment, all firefighter or commanders can experiment with all potential tactical options, as there is no limit on availability or scenario complexity. During Fire officer training, there are elements of role or support functions which are not suited to virtual worlds, these generally involve human interactions, and the application of dynamic administrative tasks like decision logging and information processing. To improve the accuracy and value of the training this dynamic is often achieved through the use of actors, role players and “props” to augment the virtual training environment. This hybrid approach enables all aspects of firefighter or fire officer roles to be developed as realistically as possible, honing skills in the classroom that can be applied in the incident ground. Judgement in high pressure situations In conjunction with this development in the training environment, and the recognition that training now plays a central part in building a commander’s capabilities, considerable work on understanding and developing these behaviours associated with decision making, have been the focus of several major research projects (Butler et al. 2020, Cohen-Hatton et al. 2015). In addition, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) had identified that commanders’ judgement in high pressure situations, especially where risk appetite was concerned, needed some consideration. Effectively they recognized that this was a “human factors” consideration, where the commander themselves was the factor posing the greatest risk (to themselves, the public and to the people they are in command of) (CFOA, 2015). Command decision making skills and the application of human factors throughout training are now widely recognized as essential components in the development of a fire officers skill set. Fire Services are effectively required to train commanders in those skills, allow them to develop and maintain them and in particular systematically record and evaluate the strength of those skills. The Effective Command model The Effective Command model developed in 2015 offers a solution to this challenge. It follows a behavioral marker philosophy and can be used to record operational competence achieved during training, incident monitoring or formal assessment, from incidents or simulated training environments. Command decision making skills and the application of human factors throughout training are now widely recognized as essential A rich multi-mode training environment allows in the development of Recognition primed decision making, where the experience is rich enough to become a part of a commander’s knowledge base, allowing them to determine the nature of problems, quickly and resolve them based on past successful experiences. The Effective Command training methodology aligns with the five principles of simulator-based exercise team training, as outlined by Crichton (2017). Principle 1 - Develop learning objectives and expected performance standards Through the use of scenarios, incident commanders are presented with unexpected events or dilemmas (Lamb et al, 2014). These cues stimulate the expected behaviours and allow relevant behavioral markers to be practiced or demonstrated. 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2020 Review: COVID-19’s Impact On The Fire Industry And Firefighting
2020 Review: COVID-19’s Impact On The Fire Industry And Firefighting

COVID-19 dominated the headlines in 2020, and it had a profound impact on the fire industry. TheBigRedGuide.com published many articles about the pandemic and its impact, some of which were among the most-read articles of the year. This retrospective will highlight some of those pandemic-related articles, including links to the original content.  The Fire Industry Association (FIA) in the United Kingdom published a survey report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey, conducted by FIA, sought to gain a greater understanding of how organizations have been impacted by COVID-19 and of the impact on the wider fire industry now and in the future. Resilience is a recurring theme in the FIA report. At the time of the survey (when the United Kingdom was just past the coronavirus peak), a total of 81% of respondents expected they could continue operating under current circumstances for three months or more. rapidly-spreading virus Roughly a fourth expected their business could continue for six months (23.4%), and another quarter of respondents expected they could last a year (23.4%). First responders were on the front lines of the latest COVID-19 health crisis. Around the United States - and around the world - EMS departments faced the uncertainties of a rapidly-spreading virus. One early problem was a shortage of face masks. As cases surged, it was also harder for ambulance companies to get other needed supplies. Around the United States - and around the world - EMS departments faced the uncertainties of a rapidly-spreading virus In King County, Wash., an early epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Kirkland, Wash., firefighters and Kirkland police officers were placed under quarantine after an outbreak at a senior care facility. Firefighters were either quarantined at home or at a local fire station. Fire stations are unique environments with conditions that could be conducive to the spread of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19. municipal fire departments Firefighters live in close quarters for 24-hour shifts, and then return home to their families. Reports about “hot” firehouses have helped to emphasize the need to follow best practices to avoid the spread of the disease. The Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) compiled a list of guidelines that departments can put into practice to reduce and/or avoid cross-contamination of on-duty staff. Among other impacts on the fire industry, the COVID-19 global pandemic played havoc with the industry’s trade show schedule, with major events canceled or delayed. County and municipal fire departments were impacted as local governments respond to the COVID-19-induced economic downturn with spending freezes, hiring freezes and spending cuts. Some local governments are hoping for help from the state and/or federal level. address economic downturns Although some governments have “rainy day funds” to address economic downturns, not all of them do. Furthermore, the extent of the current economic crisis may exceed our worst fears. Proposed budget cuts for some fire and EMS departments are in the 10% to 25% range. A consequence of the coronavirus shutdown was cancellation of hundreds of volunteer fire department fundraisers across the United States - from fish fries to bingo to hog roasts to chicken barbecues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward working from home accelerated No more carnivals or spaghetti suppers or gun raffles. And departments lost thousands of dollars. Firefighters are used to wearing protective gear, but one U.S. locale exempted first responders from adhering to a mask mandate to address coronavirus risks. The City Council of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, proposed an amendment to exempt first responders from complying with the city’s face mask ordinance. ensure social distancing Specifically, the proposed amendment states, “Exempted from the requirements of the ordinance requiring wearing of face coverings include law enforcement personnel, first responders or other workers, who are actively engaged in their tasks, if wearing a face covering may hinder their performance.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward working from home accelerated. New technologies made it possible for 911 dispatchers to work from home, whether to ensure social distancing or to supplement operations during evolving emergencies. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems offer web-based interfaces and mobile capabilities that enable public-safety answering point (PSAP) operators to work from anywhere. Other technologies that are paving the way for dispatchers to work from home include the cloud, virtual private networks (VPNs), and faster data speeds. blocking firefighter access Adapting workspaces to operate safely during a pandemic presents complications, not least of which is making sure that the measures taken to protect employees from infection do not undermine fire safety. In the course of altering a building to prevent infection spread, there are risks of introducing new life safety hazards and compromising emergency preparedness. It is also important to avoid blocking firefighter access and facilities As buildings adapt to new occupancy standards and requirements, it is critical that any protective measures do not interfere with operation of life safety systems. Might temporary partitions or barriers block escape routes during a fire emergency? Social distancing measures might entail blocking emergency exists and disrupting the flow of occupants looking to vacate a building. It is also important to avoid blocking firefighter access and facilities. career options The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting every aspect of our business lives. But buried among the disruption was an opportunity. Newly idled workers could see this as an opportune time for training to expand their career options. Meanwhile, employees still on the job may find that a cancelled or postponed project means they have time on their hands. Training can enable them to make the most of that time. In-person training has come to a halt, of course, because of social distancing requirements. Filling the gap are new online learning opportunities.

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