Examining Trends in Nonstructural Personal Protective Equipment

Al Petrillo examines trends in nonstructural PPE.
As the number of runs for structural fire calls continues to decrease, more and more fire departments are choosing to outfit their personnel with nonstructural personal protective equipment (PPE) as a second set of turnout gear to be worn for all other calls. Often this gear is lighter and more comfortable than structural turnouts, and departments say its use can extend the life of structural PPE.

Alysha Gray, product marketing director for fire PPE at Lion, says Lion makes the TR51™ rescue/EMS turnout gear that is compliant with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1951, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Technical Rescue Incidents, and NFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing and Ensembles for Emergency Medical Operations. TR51 turnouts can be constructed with a Safety Components Sigma™, a DuPont™ Nomex®, or a TenCate Millenia™ Light outer shell, she says.

The gear uses a Crosstech® SR moisture barrier, has a bi-swing back, bellows underarm to help prevent hem rise when the wearer reaches up, and a banded crotch seam so there are no intersecting seams. She adds that TR51 gear is custom sized for a good fit and to help with ergonomics and is available with Lion’s optional PCA-reinforced knees with LITE-N-Dri padding.

 Lion makes TR51™ rescue/EMS turnout gear that is compliant with two NFPA standards. (Photos 1-3 courtesy of Lion.)

 Lion’s MedPro™ EMS gear uses a Milliken Westex® DH fire resistant outer shell for protection against flash fires.

 The VersaPro® rescue turnout gear made by Lion is a single-layer garment composed of Sigma® fabric.

Lion also makes MedPro™ high-performance emergency medical services rescue wear that is compliant with NFPA 1999, says Karen Lehtonen, Lion’s vice president of innovation and product development. MedPro uses a Milliken Textiles Westex® DH fire-resistant outer shell with a HydroPel Premier finish for durable protection against flash fires, Lehtonen says, and has a Gore ® Crosstech® EMS moisture barrier that protects against blood, bodily fluids, and water while remaining breathable. The gear is custom fit in 2-inch increments for the chest and waist, the coat has a bi-swing back and underarm bellows for greater mobility, and the pant has a banded crotch and leg zippers to make it easier to don and doff over boots.

In addition, Lion makes VersaPro® rescue turnouts as a single-layer garment composed of Sigma fabric for a combination of flash and thermal protection, durability, and comfort, Lehtonen says. VersaPro gear features a bi-swing back, banded crotch, Lite-N-Dri padding in the knees, zippered legs, and PCA-reinforced knees and pant cuffs.

Todd Herring, vice president of product innovation and strategy for Fire-Dex®, says Fire-Dex makes TECHGEN51 Fatigues, wildland/tech rescue gear that is compliant with NFPA 1951 and NFPA 1977, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Firefighting.

“The gear is made with TECHGEN51 fabric built with a PFAS-free water repellent finish that provides optimal strength, breathability, and thermal protection for all nonfire-related calls,” he says. The Fatigues have thermoplastic zippers; STEDSHIELD® FR reinforced elbows; cuff warmer pockets; and knees with padded inserts, reinforced boot cuffs, and pass-through pockets.

 Fire-Dex makes TECHGEN51 Fatigues wildland/tech rescue gear that is compliant with NFPA’s wildland firefighting and technical rescue standards. (Photos 4-6 courtesy of Fire-Dex.)

 The Para-Dex™ EMS gear made by Fire-Dex has a Nomex outer shell with a Crosstech® EMS inner lining.

 Fire-Dex’s USAR gear pants have 15-inch zippered legs, full bellows pockets, and reinforced cuffs and knees.

Fire-Dex also makes Para-Dex™ EMS Gear, which is compliant with NFPA 1999, and USAR Gear, compliant with NFPA 1999 and 1951, Herring points out. He notes that Para-Dex EMS gear offers a comfortable fit with a waterproof, breathable, and bloodborne pathogen-resistant construction to protect from line-of-duty hazards. Its outer shell is six-ounce Nomex, and the lining is Crosstech® EMS fabric that provides breathability and heat stress relief while maintaining liquid penetration resistance from blood, bodily fluids, and water, Herring says.

Herring notes that Fire-Dex’s USAR gear gives lightweight, breathable protection for technical rescue, EMS, and other nonfire incident calls where durability and bloodborne pathogen protection are needed. “Our USAR gear uses TECGEN51 for the outer shell, which allows great flexibility and breathability, and we also offer Nomex as an outer shell as well,” he says. “Both USAR and Para-Dex gear have the same Fire-Dex ergonomic features, as well as 15-inch zippered legs, full bellows pockets, reinforced cuffs and knees, and an easy-on elastic waist.”

Claude Barbeau, general manager of INNOTEX, says his company makes ENERGY™ tech rescue/wildland gear that is compliant with NFPA 1951 and NFPA 1977. “ENERGY has the same shape and pattern as our structural turnout gear, with a Sigma seven-ounce outer shell in a twill weave with a water repellent finish and a detachable polar fleece vest,” Barbeau notes. The jacket has a retractable action back for greater freedom of movement, he adds, while the pant has a low-rise waist with reinforced belt loops.

INNOTEX also makes ENERGY EMS tech rescue/EMS gear, Barbeau points out, which is compliant with NFPA 1951 and NFPA 1977. The gear has a Stedair TXLB moisture barrier, a Milliken outer shell, and a Stedair TX L3 trilaminate medical barrier for bloodborne pathogen protection, he says. “This gear is ASTM Level 3 compliant and also meets ANSI/AAMI PB70 reuse standards,” Barbeau adds.

 INNOTEX makes ENERGY™ tech rescue/wildland gear that’s compliant with the NFPA’s wildland and technical rescue standards. (Photos 7-8 courtesy of INNOTEX.)

 The ENERGY EMS tech rescue/EMS gear made by INNOTEX has a Stedair TXLB moisture barrier, a Milliken outer shell, and a Stedair TX L3 trilaminate medical barrier.

VIKING Life-Saving Equipment makes VIKING Shield gear that allows firefighters to handle wildland fires, technical rescue and extrication, or emergency medical operations, says Grant Grinstead, VIKING’s fire segment sales manager for North America. VIKING Shield is compliant with NFPA 1977, NFPA 1951, and NFPA 1999, he notes, giving the gear a three-in-one application. “The three-in-one protection is part of the design,” Grinstead says. “VIKING Shield’s outer shell is made from Sigma, and the Gore® SR moisture barrier liner protects against water ingress, bloodborne pathogens, and chemicals for crews responding to vehicle extrications and emergency medical operations. For wildland fires, push buttons snap the liner out, making the gear an NFPA 1977-compliant wildland garment.”

 VIKING Life-Saving Equipment makes VIKING Shield gear that is compliant with the NFPA’s tech rescue, wildland, and EMS standards. (Photo 9 courtesy of VIKING Life-Saving Equipment.)

Grinstead notes that as well as being multifunctional, VIKING Shield gear is tailored to fit responders rather than being limited to standard sizes. “If it fits better and feels better, you can wear it longer,” he says. “We develop gear with firefighters, conducting wear trials to evaluate real situations.”

Ryan Sonntag, a sales representative for PGI, Inc., says PGI has a variety of nonstructural firefighting PPE including garments for wildland and technical rescue with a custom flare that some other manufacturers may not offer.

“There are definitely a lot of similarities, but we have a lot of differences with our competitors,” Sonntag said, noting that PGI got it start in the wildland coat, pant, and jumpsuit business.

At the entry level, PGI has a line of wildland clothing call the Ground Pounder that has limited fabric and options to keep the garments at an economic price point, says Sonntag, adding that the product is made of flame-resistant cotton and is a very durable ensemble to keep firefighters safe. He adds if a customer wants some thing more durable, para-aramid fabric is more like a Kevlar material.

PGI has a wildland ensemble called Smokechaser, which takes the Ground Pounder garments as a foundation and adds more options and different materials.

10   A technical rescue team performs extrication training in new PGI FireLine Multi Mission garments. (Photos 10-12 courtesy of PGI, Inc.)

11   A firefighter evaluates PGI FireLine Multi Mission garments during a confined space operation.

12  A first responder in a customized PGI FireLine Multi Mission jumpsuit stabilizes a vehicle at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

“It’s more of a deluxe version of wildland clothing,” Sonntag says, explaining that the Smokechaser line has more pockets available and more reflective material, color, and options. He adds the Smokechaser line has pockets on the stomach area of the coat, radio pockets, D-rings, collar options, and a clasp for gloves inside pants pockets.

“It has a few more bells and whistles,” Sonntag says of the Smokechaser line. “It’s a nicer version of our Ground Pounder made specifically for wildland firefighting.”

Sonntag says PGI also has another line of nonstructural gear called the Fireline, multi-mission garments that have dual certification for NFPA 1951 and NFPA 1977.

“They do the wildland firefighting, but they are also certified to do technical rescues, vehicle rescue, and things like that,” Sonntag says, adding that they’re better suited for use on a roadside incident like a car crash or other incidents that don’t involve structural firefighting. “Structural turnout gear is really expensive, and they are really heavy and really hot, and no one wants to wear them in the middle of a highway on a hot summer day,” he says. “It’s lighter weight, more breathable, and it’s not going to cost as much to replace if something does happen to it and it gets cut on a piece of metal when you’re cutting someone out of a car,” Sonntag says.

With a variety of options, lettering, and reflective packages and zipper pantleg cuffs combined with a variety of fabrics, including Nomex, TenCate Pioneer, Sigma fabrics, DH Riptrill Hydro, and Agility, PGI has a nonstructural PPE garment for virtually every firefighter and every budget, according to Sonntag.


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.

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