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Turnout/Bunker Gear - Expert Commentary

Firefighter Uniform Adapts To Cancer Risk, Active Shooter Threat
Firefighter Uniform Adapts To Cancer Risk, Active Shooter Threat

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 

Airport Firefighting & Emergency Rescue – A Day In The Life Of A Firefighter
Airport Firefighting & Emergency Rescue – A Day In The Life Of A Firefighter

  Airport firefighters operate very differently to their municipal fire and rescue colleagues For the thousands of firefighters covering over 80 major commercial airports throughout Europe, life is very different from that experienced by their municipal fire and rescue service colleagues. The differences range from the type of regime they experience to the types of emergency they are called upon to deal with on a daily basis. Richard Cranham, Business Development Manager at Bristol Uniforms Ltd, explains more. Airports with scheduled passenger services range from the largest international airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Paris, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt, to some of the smallest, which include those serving smaller communities in Scandinavia and the Highlands & Islands Airports group in Scotland with 10 locations spread across some of the most inaccessible parts of the country. BAA (formerly The British Airports Authority) is the largest airport operator in the UK with 7 locations and employing over 450 firefighters at their sites at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. An airport firefighter's typical day Unlike their municipal counterparts, airport firefighters are required to cover all types of emergencies within the airport boundaries with many of the incidents unrelated to aircraft accidents or fires. Major aircraft accidents are very rare thanks to strict safety regulations and major improvements in aircraft design and build.   Airport firefighters must cover all emergencies within airport boundaries - including incidents unrelated to aircraft accidents or fires In many locations the fire services work closely with the ambulance and other emergency services dealing with all types of accidents including traffic incidents, vehicle fires, and fire alarms across the sites as well as being placed on standby whenever a pilot alerts traffic control to any type of malfunction which could present a safety hazard on landing. The most frequent incidents affecting jet aircraft involve overheating of undercarriages, wheels, tyres and brakes as well as engine problems, which although uncommon, nevertheless require putting into action major emergency standby routines. Station Officer at Bristol International Airport, Rich Lynn, who has 48 firefighters on station explained that his team is required to cover all emergencies on site including those involving buildings, vehicles and aircraft-related incidents. "We provide emergency cover for all 11 buildings on the airport site as well as dealing with aircraft-related emergencies. Although we have very few aircraft fires the main potential areas for fire are overheating sub-assemblies, wheels and brakes and any ruptures in hydraulic lines which work at high pressure and could easily cause a fire in contact with hot metal. Carbon fibre braking systems and fans on wheels on modern aircraft have greatly reduced the fire hazard." A plane coming in to land at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam   Chief Fire Officer at Schiphol Airport, Michel Wendel, explained that his firefighters are called upon to deal not only with aviation related incidents, but many others in and around the Schiphol area which are more closely related to normal fire duty callouts. On average there are in the region of 50 aviation related incidents annually with several hundred other callouts for various fire and other related hazards during the year around the large Schiphol site. Although the airport only has one terminal building, this is split into three large departure halls serving the 6 runways which range in length from over 2km to 3.8km. The most recent runway to be built was completed in 2003 and there are already plans to add a seventh in the near future. Schiphol is the world's lowest major airport being 3 metres below sea level. Schiphol has a good air traffic accident record. The last major fire was in October 2005 and was non-aviation related. A fire broke out at the airport's detention centre, killing 11 people and injuring 15. The complex was holding 350 people at the time of the incident. The last aviation accident occurred over 12 years ago when a Saab 340 operated by KLM Cityhopper returned to Schiphol because the crew mistakenly believed that the engine suffered from low oil pressure because of a faulty warning light. On final approach, at a height of 90 feet, the plane stalled and hit the ground. Of the twenty-four people on board, three were killed including the captain. Nine others were seriously injured.   Fires caused by burning aviation fuel require special skills - training is a regular part of the airport firefighter's working life Airport firefighter training Even though the call to action to fight fires may come infrequently, the special characteristics of hot fires caused by burning aviation fuel need special skills. Training is a regular and frequent part of the firefighter's working life. At Schiphol, training is carried out on a daily basis. There are 125 full time firefighters on station who all work shifts of 3 teams over 24 hours. The size of the airport complex is such that the firefighters operate out of 3 fire stations - Rijk, Sloten and Vijfhuizen - which are located around the site.   A Manchester airport firefighter training in the cab of a plane   Michel Wendel gave details saying, "Firefighter training is carried out at the main station, Sloten, on a daily basis. Firefighters are on rotational duty at Sloten and their training is undertaken when they are on main station duty. Normally training sessions last about 4 hours. A range of training is carried out including simulated fire fighting on a Boeing 747 test rig with a computer-controlled gas fire." Gerard Montgomery, Senior Airport Fire Officer at Gatwick, has 80 firefighters on location including himself and a deputy. His team is responsible for dealing with all site emergencies and shares daytime callouts with the ambulance service. With responding to all fire alarms and traffic accidents at Gatwick his crew handle around 2,500 callouts annually. On training Gerard explained, "We carry out training on a weekly basis on an LPG Boeing 747 aircraft simulator. This would involve a number of fire scenarios and also provides training for breathing apparatus, hose management and ladder work. We are also acquiring a fire behaviour simulator which will provide carbonaceous fire scenarios. The new unit was installed in the summer of 2006." Firefighter clothing: emphasis on lighter weight, wearer comfort Most, if not all, airports use a selection procedure for purchasing firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which routinely involves trialling samples of kit from several manufacturers. The alternatives are inspected and supplied to firefighters to carry out wearer trials. Selection is based on a number of criteria including wearer comfort, durability, price, sizing and availability of stock. A number of airport fire teams are being, or have been, re-equipped over the past 2-3 years giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the new lighter weight firefighter clothing being introduced to the market which provide greater wearer comfort and reduce heat stress associated with prolonged periods of wear. There is also growing interest in adopting managed care services as a means of providing regular inspection, washing and repair. Richard Cranham - Business Development Manager, Bristol Uniforms Ltd

Latest FlamePro (UK) Limited news

FlamePro Attains Contract By Capita To Provide Firefighting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) For The UK’s Ministry Of Defence
FlamePro Attains Contract By Capita To Provide Firefighting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) For The UK’s Ministry Of Defence

FlamePro, a renowned British manufacturing specialist of life safety garments and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for firefighters, has been awarded a £4 million contract by Capita, to provide its firefighting PPE for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD), across the next decade. Firefighting PPE tender The competitive tender, part of Capita’s contract with the MOD, saw four different PPE providers bid for the contract, with FlamePro being appointed to provide its full ensemble of Personal Protective Equipment, alongside a total garment care package. FlamePro was awarded the Ministry Of Defence’s PPE contract, due to its high-quality products FlamePro was awarded the Ministry Of Defence’s PPE contract, due to its high-quality products and the company’s dedication to providing support and expertise on Personal Protective Equipment care, use and maintenance. The contract includes a multi-million pounds initial roll out, with a total value of £4 million over 10 years duration. New fabric technologies and designs Nathan Bricknell, the General Manager at FlamePro, said “We’re absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this contract with Capita. It marks a key milestone for the company. Over recent months, we’ve worked with our partners to develop brand new fabric technologies and designs, including a 3D woven structure and new moisture barrier membrane, to ensure our PPE is the most advanced on the market.”  Nathan Bricknell adds, “Our brand new structural fire suit has set a new benchmark across the whole industry. This, teamed with our shorter-than-average lead times, stands us in great stead to deliver top-quality products and service on this contract.”

FlamePro Launches Their Fire Kit Which Consists Of A Valiant Structural Fire Suit To Enhance Firefighter Safety
FlamePro Launches Their Fire Kit Which Consists Of A Valiant Structural Fire Suit To Enhance Firefighter Safety

FlamePro, a British manufacturing specialist of life-saving garments for firefighters, announces the launch of a first-of-its-kind fire kit, having worked with its suppliers to bring new, innovative technologies to the market. The new valiant structural fire suit represents a significant step forward in firefighter protection, utilizing brand new developments in fabrics, membranes, and components. This includes a new fabric assembly, which incorporates an integrated 3D woven structure and state-of-the-art membrane, to provide exceptional breathability, moisture transportation, and thermal performance. Better thermal performance As well as giving brigades the choice of five outer fabrics, the valiant suit is available with new moisture barrier innovations, resulting in a membrane that is the same weight as traditional structures, yet offers increased breathability, moisture management, and high-temperature wash durability, as well as delivering better thermal performance against radiant heat. Another innovation in the valiant suit is a 3D woven thermal lining layer, which offers breathability Another innovation in the valiant suit is a 3D woven thermal lining layer, which offers breathability, as well as excellent moisture transportation and thermal performance. When these technologies are combined, the full assembly offers a garment that has been shown to be one of the most effective at transporting moisture away from the firefighter, which helps to keep them cool and prevent any trapped moisture from conducting heat and causing potential burns. Offering additional benefits Wearer trials of this garment system have shown it performs better than conventional and dual systems in scenarios such as climbing ladders, hot house trials, and crawling through enclosed spaces. Both the jacket and trousers of the valiant suit feature ergonomic shaped paneling, which is designed to maximize ease of movement and comfort for the firefighter. The new fabric system also offers additional benefits including lack of perceived bulk and quick drying. The jacket and trousers have both been designed down to the smallest details to ensure they are better and more comfortable to work in and to provide the firefighter with the features they need to do their demanding job. Cutting-Edge technologies The new garments are also the first on the UK market to include luminous tapes as standard The new garments are also the first on the UK market to include luminous tapes as standard, in addition to reflective tapes. These glow-in-the-dark, phosphorescent strips aid location of colleagues in near, or even total, darkness. Commenting on the launch of the new fire kit, FlamePro’s technical sales manager, Reece Buchner, said: “This new fire kit is a real game-changer in the firefighting industry. We’ve been working with our suppliers for many months to develop these cutting-edge technologies – the likes of which have never been seen before.” Protecting frontline workers “Our new material assembly is truly unique – both the 3D woven structure, as well as the new moisture barrier membrane are very much a first for the industry, and demonstrate a major leap forward in PPE options for firefighters.” “As well as protecting frontline workers from the dangers of extreme heat and flames, making sure PPE is a comfortable fit is a top priority for us. With these new technologies that we’ve developed, and our brand-new designs, we know we are setting a new benchmark for structural suits across the whole industry.”

FlamePro Aids On How To Choose PPE That Reduces The Impact Of Heat Stress
FlamePro Aids On How To Choose PPE That Reduces The Impact Of Heat Stress

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.

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