The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) released the report “Emergency First Responder Respirator Thermal Characteristics”. The report, based on proceedings of a one and one-half day workshop held in July 2010, identifies performance needs and establishes research priorities to address the thermal characteristics of respiratory protective equipment used by emergency first responders. The workshop was jointly hosted by the FPRF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health – National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NIOSH-NPPTL). The FPRF is the research affiliate for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

At the heart of this issue lies the escalating interest involving the integrity of face pieces used with firefighter self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Of specific interest by workshop attendees and NFPA technical committees responsible for emergency responder personal protective equipment (PPE) is the performance of these face pieces to thermal insult, and whether they provide acceptable protection consistent with the performance expectations of the full PPE ensemble required by current NFPA standards. This issue is of particular interest to the NFPA Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment responsible for NFPA 1981, Standard on Open Circuit Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services.

The workshop was designed to clarify research needs to reduce the problem of heat-related respirator failures during firefighting, and provided a forum for representatives from the emergency responder community, SCBA and component manufacturers, and research and testing centers to discuss issues, technologies, and research associated with SCBA high-temperature performance. Among the workshop goals were clarifying baseline information and current state-of-the-art, identifying applicable fire service events and current related research, and providing research planning that includes identification of performance needs for short- and long-term research priorities.

As a result of the proceedings, primary concerns and research priorities were identified. They were:  the characterization of the firefighter environment, performance of current and new technology, development of representative and realistic testing, and improvements to firefighter training on the limitations of protective equipment. This provides guidance for research and testing centers to address important real-world problems that are directly confronting today’s firefighters using SCBA.

For more information on the Fire Protection Research Foundation,visit www.nfpa.org/foundation. The report is available at http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/Research/RFSCBAFacepiecesWorkshopProceedings.pdf.

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