What about helmets?
I really enjoyed Alan M. Petrillo's articles, "Lightweight Boots Mean Less Stress on Firefighters" and "Technology Continues to Drive PPE Development" (January 2012).
I have been in the industry since 1975 and personally witnessed the many changes in protective clothing that have taken place. As a supplier for the City of Madison, Wisconsin, I watched them go from knee-length Nomex duck coats and ¾-length boots to bunker pants and short boots in the 1970s. Today, Madison wears PBI Matrix OS, two-layer Caldura SL-2 Thermal Liner, and Crosstech MB with leather boots. Interestingly, Madison was one of the original test sites for the "Project Fires" study during the 1970s.
What I find most interesting today is all the attention being given to clothing and boots, but the helmet, arguably the most important protective piece worn, has been completely left behind. In fact, much of the fire service is basically using a design from the early 1900s with current material updates. Clearly the events of September 11th and the iconic photo with three FDNY firefighters raising the American Flag had a lot to do with the resurgence of the traditional helmet. But, shouldn't more focus today be on protection and safety and not tradition?
We recently were selected to be the national market arm in the United States for the NFPA 1971-compliant Rosenbauer Heroes-xt structural fire helmet. It's been amazing to see the interest level nationwide in this helmet. The majority of interest is coming from fire department officers who revere the traditional look but understand that at the end of the day it's about safety, comfort, and everyone coming home safely. We recently sold helmets to a fire department in Connecticut. After asking why the department went with Heroes-xt, the chief stated, "I just put our staff through entanglement training, and not one person went through the maze without having to remove his helmet. That's not acceptable." A very progressive fire department in the Twin Cities recently started to transition to the Heroes-xt. It was called to a house fire and during the mop-up and overhaul stage, the ceiling collapsed on several members who were wearing the Heroes-xt. I was told by the chief that all were glad that they were wearing the Heros-xt and not their old traditional helmets.
Jefferson Fire & Safety, Inc.
Alan Petrillo responds: Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. You are correct in your assessment of the many changes in PPE and raise a good point about helmets. We will be sure to examine them more closely in future PPE articles. Also, perhaps we'll see some helmet innovations introduced at FDIC in Indianapolis this April.
Raul Angulo's "Iron Men and Wooden Ladders" (Tool Tech, January 2012) was great except for one thing. Seagrave started in Detroit, Michigan, in 1881, not Columbus, Ohio. It moved to Columbus in 1891.