Associations, EMS, Fire Department

New Threats, New Turnout Gear

Issue 11 and Volume 11.

Project HEROES turnout gear an exhalation tube vented into the coat to cool the wearer
Project HEROES turnout gear an exhalation tube vented into the coat to help cool the wearer.
The hood is also integrated into the coat  collar replacing hoods that are currently a separate component.
The hood is also integrated into the coat  collar replacing hoods that are currently a separate component.
Gloves interface with the coat with matching oval rings and magnetized screws creating a secure seal.
Gloves interface with the coat with matching oval rings and magnetized screws creating a secure seal.
The exhalation tube from the SCBA interfaces with the coat's liner.
The exhalation tube from the SCBA interfaces with the coat’s liner.
The coat liner contains standoffs to prevent the coat from compressing too tightly against the wearer's body.
The coat liner contains “standoffs” to prevent the coat from compressing too tightly against the wearer’s body.
The exhalation tube screws into the turnout coat's outershell allowing spent air inside the coat.
The exhalation tube screws into the turnout coat’s outershell allowing spent air inside the coat.
To protect the ankle interface, the boot liner is directly attached to the pant liner.
To protect the ankle interface, the boot liner is directly attached to the pant liner. (Fire Apparatus Photos)

 Last month, I reviewed the CB•Ready turnout gear by Globe Manufacturing in partnership with Dr. Roger Barker of North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Dupont. This month’s issue will review the Project HEROES (Homeland Emergency Response Operational and Equipment Systems) turnout gear by Total Fire Group/Morning Pride Manufacturing.

Late in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security and the Technical Support Working Group awarded two grants for developing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) turnout gear.

NCSU and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) each received a grant. Both projects have developed products that comply with both National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971 and NFPA 1994 (Class 2 with improved durability) Standard for Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, it became obvious that the fire service would be the first responders and that the possibility of future events appears inevitable. With that established, it was natural to think about a fire call that turns out to be a terrorist incident involving chemical and/or biological agents. What should firefighters do when they do not realize the dangers until they are already exposed?

The two grants were awarded to answer that question.

Concurrent to the development of the two projects, the NFPA technical committee on Structural Fire Fighting Protective Clothing and Equipment was rapidly developing minimum turnout gear requirements to protect against the identified threats.

The FBI reports those threats as: explosives, firebombs and guns, biological toxins, industrial chemicals, biological pathogens, radioisotopes, chemical weapons, and nuclear weapons.

The term CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) has been at the forefront of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). One disclaimer must be made – though the term nuclear is used, there is really no protection against nuclear weapons.

As a result of the NFPA technical committee’s work, effective in February 2007, fire departments can purchase CBRN designed and certified turnout gear.

The CBRN protection is an option in the 2007 NFPA 1971 revision-Standard for Protective Ensemble for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.

All fire departments should make a threat assessment determining if CBRN is right for them. Fire departments should also keep in mind the benefits of CBRN protection to incident responses that may involve one of the threat levels, without the incident being an act of terrorism.

Beginning in February, all self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) will be designed and certified to protect against CBRN, and hazmat suit requirements have been rewritten to meet present-day threats.

Project HEROES is part of an IAFF initiative. Using the grant funds, the project team includes: the IAFF, Total Fire Group/Morning Pride, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Personal Protection Technology Laboratory, International Personnel Protection, University of Massachusetts, and the University of Arkansas.

The project team took a different design approach to providing protection than the CB•Ready turnout gear described last month. Instead of “deployable” CBRN protection, the Project HEROES approach provides full CBRN protection anytime a CBRN compliant SCBA is used. The ensemble’s outer shell uses a PBO- or PBI-based outer shell, and the CBRN barrier is the W.L. Gore Company’s CHEMPAK.

Innovative Designs

There are several innovative designs for the critical interface areas of turnout gear. The wrist area is protected by an oval ring attached to each turnout coat sleeve and a matching oval ring attached to the glove opening. Magnetized screws hold the glove secure against the coat sleeve. The oval design works for the human form as well as assisting in proper glove and coat alignment.

The ankle interface area is protected by attaching the boot liner directly to the leg of the turnout gear pants. At first glance, this might appear unworkable, but considering turnout pants are stowed over the boots for quick donning, this approach should work without problems. The boot contains a flap over the top to prevent liquid penetration.

The hood is attached to the coat collar and replaces the current separate hood. Because the hood is always in place, it has a CBRN barrier. This will be an interesting development to watch, since current hoods do not have a moisture barrier.

The waist area features suspender loops without buttons, preventing gaps. The coat incorporates take-up straps, keeping the coat snug against the pants.

Another notable Project HEROES design innovation is an exhalation air tube extending from the SCBA face piece to the turnout gear coat. The tube screws to the coat’s outer shell where spent air discharges inside the coat.

Cooling Firefighters

The coat liner contains “standoffs” keeping the coat from compressing too tightly against the body. This facilitates air movement from the exhalation tube. The design team claims the discharged air cools the wearer as well as provides a small measure of positive pressure ventilation to the system’s interior. It is the project’s intent to make this feature adaptable to all SCBA CBRN-compliant manufacturers.

As with the CB•Ready turnout gear, the Project HEROES turnout gear must be tested and purchased as a system. Fire departments will not have a choice in gloves or footwear unless it has been tested as part of the system. The helmet is not part of the CBRN protection.

CBRN is not just for terrorist incidents.  Consider the protection it will afford on highway incidents, or responses to meth lab fires.

While CBRN protection is not a requirement, it would probably be a good option to consider the next time you are in the market for turnout gear.

Editor’s Note: Robert Tutterow, who has nearly 30 years in the fire service, is Charlotte (N.C.) Fire Department’s health and safety officer. He is a member of the NFPA’s technical committees on fire apparatus, serving as the chairperson of the group’s safety task force. He is also a member of the NFPA’s structural fire fighting protective clothing and equipment correlating committee.

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