By Alan M. Petrillo
Helmets and eye protection are major pieces in the personal protective equipment (PPE) envelope that a firefighter wears.
So, PPE manufacturers have evolved helmets and eye protection to provide the greatest safety for firefighters and yet remain functional and ergonomic in use.
Matt Ernst, product manager of fire helmets for Bullard, says that Bullard makes five models of firefighting helmets, including the newly introduced ReTrak™ series that has an integrated visor “engineered based directly on feedback from firefighters.” The integrated liner fits between the helmet’s inner liner and outer shell, Ernst says, which “gives it a lower profile where it is out of the way and stowed in a contained area so it doesn’t get dirty.”
The integrated visor moves across two axes, Ernst points out, so when it is deployed, it rotates down but also moves away from the face, allowing for a better fit for firefighters with larger faces or those wearing eyeglasses. “The integrated visor is held in by two finger latches on the left and right of the helmet,” Ernst says. “A firefighter can pop the latch with a single finger to remove the visor to clean or replace it.” The ReTrak integrated visor is available on Bullard’s UST, FX, and PX series helmets.
Bullard’s UST series helmet is made in a traditional style and has a fiberglass outer shell for toughness and durability, Ernst says, as well as a 12-point comfort system including the Sure-Lock® ratchet headband that adjusts to the wearer’s head with a turn of a knob. The FX series is a contemporary style fiberglass helmet that also uses the Sure-Lock ratchet and additional adjustment points to permit a custom fit. Bullard’s PX and LT series helmets have thermoplastic outer shells and are designed in the contemporary style.
Jonathan Gates, product manager for helmets and face gear at Lion, says his company makes traditional style firefighting helmets. “The traditional style helmet with ribs across the top like our American Legend® helmet is the most popular with firefighters,” Gates points out. “There’s a trend in the industry in trying to make helmets lighter, and the ribs help strengthen the shell and continue to help with impact resistance.”
Lion’s American Legend fiberglass fire helmet features an integrated face shield that has a snap-in-and-out assembly, Gates says. “It also has a ratcheting headband with a Nomex® foam wrap that adjusts to fit head sizes from 5½ to 9 inches,” he adds. “It also uses our patented Center of Gravity™ adjustment system for a custom fit.”
Lion also makes the American Legend X firefighting helmet that has wider inner dimensions to fit a greater array of head and hood sizes, Gates says, and includes the integrated face shield.
Todd Herring, director of marketing for Fire-Dex, says the company offers two lines of firefighting helmets: the 1910 Traditional helmet and the more modern style 911 helmet. “The 1910 Traditional helmet is a compression-molded fiberglass model where we focused on the position where the helmet sits on the firefighter’s head,” Herring says. “The helmet has six-way overhead suspension straps for a customized and secure fit and a three-piece headband with an easy adjustment ratchet assembly that adjusts from 6½ to 9 inches. The helmet’s lower center of gravity makes it more ergonomic and comfortable for firefighters to wear.” Eye protection for the 1910 Traditional helmet is provided either through a four-inch visor or goggles, Herring says.
Fire-Dex’s 911 helmet also is compression-molded fiberglass but in a modern, more rounded shape that is smaller in design and weight than the 1910 Traditional model, Herring points out. The 911 model also uses six-way overhead suspension straps on the interior, and a three-piece headband with an easy adjustment ratchet assembly that adjusts from 6½ to 9 inches. The 911 helmet is available with either a four-inch or six-inch visor as well as goggles. Both models of Fire-Dex helmets are fitted with a Nomex® chinstrap and a one-hand release buckle and postman slide adjustment.
MSA offers several models of Cairns® firefighting helmets both in traditional and contemporary styles. It makes the Cairns 1044 and Cairns 1010 traditional helmets made from through-color fiberglass composite material. The helmets have a patented shell release system that retains the impact cap if the helmet is torn off during an incident; a Nomex chin strap with a one-hand, quick-release buckle; an adjustable front headband; and a three-position rear ratchet height adjustment.
Cairns also makes the N5A New Yorker™ leather fire helmet that is hand-crafted, shaped, stitched, and trimmed. The New Yorker has an impact cap for thermal/impact/penetration protection, a Nomex chin strap, Nomex or PBI/Kevlar® earflaps, and high-temperature glass-filled face shield/goggle hardware. Cairns’ 660C Metro fire helmet is a contemporary style helmet made from through-color fiberglass composite material and has Nomex or PBI/Kevlar earlaps, a three-position ratchet for height adjustment, and a self-contained breathing apparatus interface adjustable front headband.
Honeywell First Responder Products
Honeywell First Responder Products makes traditional and contemporary style fire helmets. It’s Ben 2 LR Low Rider traditional helmet features a shell made of FYR-Glass, a proprietary custom-blended material, and a six-position suspension with one-piece headband and ratchet assembly that can be adjusted without disassembly. Honeywell also offers the EV1 traditional helmet in a low-profile design that has the adjustable internal EZ Touch face and eye protection built in for one-touch deployment of face protection.
Honeywell also makes the Lite Force LR Low Rider modern helmet with a newly designed suspension and headband system that allows the helmet to ride lower on the wearer’s head and lowers the center of gravity to improve balance and reduce strain on the head, neck, and shoulders. Honeywell’s EV1 modern helmet is similar to the EV1 traditional in that it incorporates the EZ Touch internal face and eye protection but in a contemporary style design.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.