By Alan M. Petrillo
While personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers continue to refine turnout gear for safety, comfort, and ergonomics, manufacturers of the fabrics that make up that gear are turning out new and improved products that enhance the overall performance of the PPE.
Jian Xiang, global technology leader for Fire Service DuPont Protection Solutions, points out that DuPont’s™ Nomex® and Kevlar® fibers primarily are used in all three layers of turnout gear. She notes that a minimum of 70 percent of the fibers are in typical PPE.
Jeff Fackler, DuPont’s business development manager for North American fire service, says that DuPont Protection Solutions makes hundreds of different types of Nomex and Kevlar fibers that fabric mills make into hundreds of different fabrics. “We make the fibers that are the backbone of turnout gear in both long filaments and staple fibers,” Fackler says. “For example, Kevlar fibers are used for the majority of the straps on self-contained breathing apparatus. Nomex provides heat and flame protection and outstanding durability, while Kevlar provides strength and light weight in almost all of the firefighters’ PPE.”
Xiang notes that, with the exception of Nomex Nano, Nomex Nano Flex®, and thermal liner spun lace, DuPont markets its technology to fabric mills, which make the fabrics for PPE construction as well as webbing and other materials. She adds that the Nano name comes about because the fiber is at a submicron level that is a hundred times smaller than a human hair. “Because it’s such a smaller filament, a given volume creates a large surface area and is very light,” she says. “Nomex Nano Flex uses the same technology but is elastic in one direction that allows it to be used in areas where stretch is needed, like cuffs, hoods, and gloves.”
Thermal liners typically are composed of facecloth and layers of spun lace quilted together, Fackler points out. “One layer of spun lace is replaced with a layer of Nomex Nano, which is inherently fire-resistant and is very thin,” he says. “Nomex Nano also has value in particulate protection, which is especially useful in hoods and the interfaces of PPE without adding any weight or bulk. Thermal liners with Nomex Nano offer significant benefits to reduce bulk while maintaining thermal protection.”
W.L. Gore and Associates Inc.
Lon Edelman, marketing manager for W.L. Gore and Associates Inc., says Gore makes Parallon™, a moisture barrier liner system, as well as the CrossTech® and RT7100 fabrics used in moisture barriers. “Gore CrossTech Black is our most popular fabric used in moisture barriers,” Edelman says, “because it offers the best combination of durability and breathability. And for departments that need extra ruggedness, we make the CrossTech 3-Layer moisture barrier that provides durability combined with high breathability.” Gore’s RT7100 moisture barrier, he says, offers excellent protection and breathability at a lower price range.
Gore’s newest product, Parallon, takes the place of a traditional moisture barrier and thermal liner in a single system. Parallon’s moisture barrier layer maximizes breathability, Edelman points out, while its thermal insulation protects against heat, and the third layer gives added protection against liquids. “Because of the unique formulation of the fabric and the film membranes, Parallon gets a higher rate of moisture vapor transmission.”
Gore also has developed a particulate-blocking barrier fabric for use in firefighting hoods, Edelman says. “This barrier fabric is designed specifically to block particulates and has a Teflon™-type layer that gives a high breathability,” he says. “[National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (2018 ed.)] has an option for particulate blocking hoods that requires a 90 percent efficiency in blocking particulates,” he points out. “Our particulate hood hits 99.9 percent efficiency—even after 100 wash cycles.”
Globe by msa
Mark Dolim, national sales manager for Globe, says the company has worked closely with Gore to retailor some of its PPE ensembles to accommodate the Parallon moisture barrier liner system. “That single system married into three layers appears to have the ability to give a broader range of breathability across different climates,” Dolim says.
Globe also has worked with TenCate on its Kombat™ Stretch, an outer shell fabric made from a blend of PBI®/Kevlar that allows a less bulky fit while providing a range of motions, Dolim says. “We use it in our Athletix™ turnout gear,” he says, “because it gives designers the ability to orient the fabric in the direction they want it to stretch, such as under the arms and across the back, so the turnout gear mimics what our bodies do and how our skin stretches.”
Alysha Gray, product manager for fire PPE at Lion, says many of Lion’s turnouts use Safety Components PBI Max® and Armor® AP (Nomex/Kevlar blend) fabrics for lighter weight gear that provides more comfort for firefighters. “PBI Max comes in a six-ounce weight, while Armor AP is 6.5 ounces, some of the lightest weight fabrics available,” Gray points out. “We also use TenCate materials like Kombat Flex and Agility for outer shells.”
Lion also sells its V-Force turnout gear with the patented Iso-Dri moisture management system, developed with Safety Components and DuPont, Gray notes. “The moisture management system starts with durable water repellency in the outer shell, then a moisture-wicking thermal liner that’s quilted to nonwoven spun lace that is molecularly bonded to Teflon so it resists storing water in the protective envelope,” she says. “Glide Ice is the Safety Components face cloth that uses Nomex Nano filaments in Iso-Dri. Also, wristlets, where the glove interfaces with the coat, have durable water repellency, and the use of SemperDri in the cuffs of coats and pants and the yoke of the coat helps prevent water from wicking or entering the system.”
Todd Herring, director of marketing for Fire-Dex, says his company’s turnout gear uses the full range of fabrics available that meet NFPA 1971. “Heat stress is the number one line-of-duty death in the market,” Herring says, “so we try to educate firefighters about using lighter weight materials and components and look for fabrics that bring that to the table. Safety Components and TenCate have been moving to lighter weight materials, with Safety Components having the six-ounce version of PBI Max and TenCate launching Agility, a blend of Kevlar, Nomex, and PBO fiber for lighter weight, higher strength outer shells.”
Herring says Fire-Dex recently launched a new outer shell fabric, TECGEN 71, a blend of Kevlar, Nomex, and TECGEN. “It’s a 6.5-ounce outer shell fabric that is lightweight and breathable and brings a high level of thermal protection, allowing us to lighten up the thermal liner and moisture barrier to bring the gear’s total weight down significantly,” he says. “We can reduce the gear’s weight in our FXR product line by two to three pounds, making the turnout gear about 40 percent thinner and 70 percent more flexible.”
Fire-Dex also makes the H41 Interceptor™ Fire Hood with a layer of DuPont Nomex Nano Flex inside that acts as a filter to reduce firefighters’ exposure to potentially carcinogenic particulates and other harmful contaminants. Herring says the Nano Flex is in between two layers of knit six-ounce PBI/Lenzing and that the H41 is flexible and breathable and meets NFPA 1971.
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.