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.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Australia’s Moonshot: To Be Global Leader In Wildfire Prevention, Resilience
Australia’s Moonshot: To Be Global Leader In Wildfire Prevention, Resilience

Andrew and Nicola Forrest have committed 50 million Australian dollars (US$35 million) to the Fire and Flood Resilience initiative through Minderoo Foundation, with a goal of raising an additional 450 million (US$320 million) in direct or in-kind support over the life of the program. The goal of the ambitious investment is to make Australia the global leader in fire and flood resistance by the year 2025. It is an audacious vision that requires an innovative approach, and the organization takes inspiration from the U.S. Apollo mission of the 1960s. In effect, it will be a “moonshot” to advance the cause of preventing and controlling wildfires. Specifically, the first mission, Fire Shield, seeks to ensure no dangerous bushfire in Australia will burn longer than an hour by 2025. respond to wildfires The Flood and Resilience Blueprint further seeks to provide every community in Australia the skills and resources to cope with fire and flood disasters. Finally, it seeks to provide “healthy landscapes” by improving ecosystems to be “immune” to fire and flood disasters. Founded in 2001, Minderoo Foundation exists to arrest unfairness and create opportunities to better the world  “We are not daunted by or afraid of taking on the toughest challenges,” says Karen O’Connor, Missions Lead for Minderoo Foundation’s Fire & Flood Resilience initiative. "Fire has a devastating and unfair impact on communities all around the world - and if we can help drive better approaches to prevent and respond to wildfires, we can have a profound influence.” Founded in 2001, Minderoo Foundation exists to arrest unfairness and create opportunities to better the world. black summer bushfires Minderoo Foundation stepped up after Australia’s black summer bushfires in 2019-2020 to help communities respond to and recover from the devastation. The organization also seeks to do whatever it can to mitigate the risk of large-scale damage due to bushfires and build resilience to future disasters. “We understand that fire and flood are critical ecological processes that enable many of Australia’s ecosystems to function, supporting regeneration and new growth,” says O’Connor. “Therefore, Fire Shield does not aim to prevent wildfires entirely but rather to prevent wildfires from becoming disasters.” ground truth data Fire Shield will progress using the “Mission” methodology that involves breaking down major problems into smaller elements that can be addressed in turn. Missions are outcome-focused and time bound. They rely on accurate baseline and ground truth data and an ability to measure impact to know when the mission has succeeded in its goal. Fundamental to the Mission approach is bringing the best people and expertise to the challenges at hand Fundamental to the Mission approach is bringing the best people and expertise to the challenges at hand - whether they are working in scientific research, in government, corporations or philanthropy. Having accurate data and measures are also essential. To that end, Fire Shield is working with partners to develop an ecosystem for data standardization and sharing in order to collectively leverage insights to address future hazards. emergency services “It is also about making sure that people working in fire and emergency services are provided with the right information, in a timely manner, to make the best decisions when responding to fire,” says O’Connor. An example is Fire Shield’s partnership with the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council to support all Australian emergency services to develop new capabilities for fire detection, information sharing, fire simulation and response as well as utilizing data for improved decision-making wherever they are. fundamental principles “No matter what we do, Minderoo Foundation is always guided by the evidence,” says O’Connor. Minderoo Foundation’s Fire & Flood Resilience Blueprint has brought the best available evidence and expertise together to lay out a resilience blueprint for Australia and to inform the design and selection of missions, including Fire Shield. It challenges us to go right back to scientific principles and look for the best possible solutions” Importantly, the Blueprint is a “living document” that can evolve as the evidence base grows. First order problem solving is about going to the fundamental principles that apply to a problem, rather than thinking through analogies or accepted wisdom. “It challenges us to go right back to scientific principles and look for the best possible solutions,” says O’Connor.  important resilience problems The initiative is committed to working collaboratively. To date they have secured more than 50 partners across corporations, governments and civil society - and they are always open to more. They are also actively looking to collaborate with international programs with similar goals, to ensure they can multiply rather than duplicate efforts.  “We intend to share and publish our work widely, and of course continue to build collaboration, which is central to our approach,” says O’Connor. “We see ourselves as an enabler encouraging, facilitating and convening dialogue among different organizations and sectors of society to identify the most important resilience problems - and get to solutions faster.”

The Origin Of One California Wildfire Was A Gender Reveal Party
The Origin Of One California Wildfire Was A Gender Reveal Party

An explosion of blue-colored smoke on Sept. 5, 2020 in Yucalpa, California, was the beginning of a large wildfire in El Dorado Ranch Park. The pyrotechnic device was essentially a smoke bomb designed to send plumes of pink or blue smoke rising into the air, designating the gender of an expected baby. The expectant dad had packed the target with a highly explosive substance called Tannerite and shot it with a high-powered rifle. The target was designed to explode in pink or blue to reveal whether the couple was expecting a boy or a girl. Flammable foliage When the device ignited, so did the dry, wild grasses growing up to 4 feet tall in the meadow at the park, 80 miles east of Los Angeles. In the peak of summer, Southern California foliage is extremely flammable, and there were already fires burning across the state. After being active for 11 days, the fire had affected 18,506 acres and was 63% contained. The family that sparked the fire sought to put down the flames using water bottles. Then they called 911. The responsible individuals were still at the park when firemen arrived, and there are also surveillance cameras. Wildfire Spread And Evacuation The fire spread from the park to the north on to Yucalpa Ridge that separates Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls from the City of Yucalpa. The fire threatened a nearby residential neighborhood, and some 21,000 people were evacuated. After being active for 11 days, the fire had affected 18,506 acres and was 63% contained. The pyrotechnic show was a variation on the popular trend of gender reveal parties, which seek to announce the gender of an expected infant in increasingly (and competitively) colorful and/or dramatic ways. The parties are often featured prominently on social media. Rising temperatures Also contributing to the fire was recent weather in California, whose terrain was scorching in record-breaking temperatures as high as 120 degrees F in early September. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire) reminds the public that, with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it does not take much to start a wildfire, and those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible. Natural conditions and human activity Natural conditions are central to causing wildfires, although human activity can provide the triggers Natural conditions are central to causing wildfires, although human activity can provide the triggers, including downed power lines, sparks from tire blowouts, and barbecues that get out of control. The pivotal gender-reveal part is just the latest example. If not for the increasingly dry and scorched conditions that make wildfire so easy to ignite, such human events would be much less consequential. With thousands of acres of wildfire raging across California, the cause of one wildfire seems less important in the overall scheme of things. However, the event does emphasize how seemingly minor events can have a very large impact. Lightning and fireworks Another cause of recent wildfires was lightning with more than 10,000 lightning strikes sparking 376 fires on Aug 16 and 17, 2020. In a season of wildfires, use of fireworks, for whatever reason, is a particular risk. Fireworks cause an average of 18,500 fires each year in the United States. Of those, about 1,200 injuries are from less powerful devices such as small firecrackers and sparklers.

Ensuring ‘Health For The Firefighter’ Includes Cleaning Of Equipment
Ensuring ‘Health For The Firefighter’ Includes Cleaning Of Equipment

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new health challenges for firefighters, but it is far from the first major health concern in the fire service. For example, the risk of various cancers is up to twice as high among firefighters, and cancer causes 61 percent of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters. There are other health and safety concerns, too, from nutrition and fitness to vehicle safety and seat belt usage, from wellness to stress and trauma (and consequent issues of addiction). Supporting fire services Cultural issues are a driving force in managing the gamut of health and safety concerns for firefighters. Changing the mindset of firefighters about safety issues is critical to meaningful progress. It starts with awareness. COVID-19 may be the newest and most recent health concern, and addressing it has been a high priority. However, even long-term and well-known health threats in the fire service are not being adequately addressed.  Dräger found that some 84% of respondents admitted they were concerned about the risk of cancer Medical and safety technology provider Dräger, based in Lübeck, Germany, has launched a ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign to raise awareness and to support fire services in driving the necessary cultural changes to protect firefighter health. In a survey of United Kingdom firefighters, Dräger found that some 84% of respondents admitted they were concerned about the risk of cancer, which can be caused by embedded carcinogens in any equipment that can be absorbed by men and women using it. Robust hygiene processes “The COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing fears over cancer, have highlighted the critical importance of hygiene, and a significant cultural change is required,” says Brian Hesler, a consultant and specialist advisor at Dräger Safety UK and a former chief fire officer. “We need to move away from firefighters wearing dirty kit like a badge of honor that proves their hard work and value, to understand that clean and well-maintained kit supported by detailed and robust hygiene processes are essential to mitigate every contact with contaminants.” Dräger’s Health for the Firefighter campaign will support the fire services in communicating and providing training on the importance of detailed hygiene processes, from handling and storage of masks and breathing apparatus (BA) equipment through to the subsequent cleaning of the kit after an incident has occurred. Enabling fire services Manual cleaning of equipment is still generally the norm within UK fire services. In the Dräger survey, 80% agreed that a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is more emphasis on cleaning equipment and hygiene control, although only 23% said the pandemic significantly changes their approach to cleaning equipment.  Dräger has launched solutions for cleaning breathing apparatus, respiratory masks and PPE equipment Consistency is often a problem with manual cleaning, and Dräger has launched solutions for cleaning breathing apparatus, respiratory masks and PPE equipment that reduce the risk of carcinogen contamination within emergency teams. The equipment is provided in partnership with Harstra Instruments, a Dutch manufacturer of cleaning and drying equipment. The Dräger package of solutions comprises cleaning products, logistical support and consultancy services to enable fire services to mitigate firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens. Equipment handling operations Washing machines clean using high-pressure water, drying cabinets are available in various shapes and sizes, and testing facilities ensure products are decontaminated. “Employers owe their employees a duty of care and are therefore looking to provide additional protection during training, post-incident and in day-to-day equipment handling operations,” says Andy Taylor, UK Marketing Manager for Engineered Solutions at Dräger. Cleaning equipment is just one of many ways fire departments can address the health challenges for firefighters. Departments depend on regulations and policies designed to ensure the highest degrees of personal health and safety. For departments, prevention and reduction of accidents, injuries and occupational illnesses should be a way of life. The ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign can serve as a reminder of the importance of creating a culture of good health for firefighters.