PPE Designs Focus on Safety, Comfort, Value

Lion Apparel built its integrated rescue harness into turnout pants between the outer shell and liner.
Lion Apparel built its integrated rescue harness into turnout pants between the outer shell and liner.
Fire-Dex's integrated harness system uses a non-removable pocket system to house the personal escape gear.
Fire-Dex’s integrated harness system uses a non-removable pocket system to house the personal escape gear.
Globe Manufacturing developed a floating leg loop system for its internal harness, made as an integral part of its turnout pants.
Globe Manufacturing developed a floating leg loop system for its internal harness, made as an integral part of its turnout pants.

Safety, comfort and value were the buzzwords used by manufacturers to showcase innovations in personal protective equipment during the past year, and further advances are expected in 2010.

Three manufacturers introduced personal rescue harness systems built into bunker pants, while others debuted value lines of turnout gear, as well as more supple and comfortable, yet more heat resistant, thermal barriers to protect firefighters in the heat of battle.

Building Class II harnesses into turnout pants was the big story of the year when it comes to gear in the view of Mike Mordecai, director of business development for Globe Manufacturing in Pittsfield, N.H.

Mordecai said Globe had to invent a new system for putting a Class II harness inside turnout pants in order to come up with its IH (internal harness) that allows leg loops to float on the waist belt of the harness. Positive closure is accomplished by a Kevlar belt and buckle or a hook and D-ring system.

“The floating leg loops allow the waist belt to be tightened and still have the loops slip along it,” Mordecai said. “The system also allows the loops to slide up and down to be in the right position for descending.”

The internal harness is an integral part of turnout pants that have added length and fullness in the seat and the knees for better mobility.

The IH system allows the pants and harness to be fastened simultaneously, and Globe’s Series 2 pants also have a pocket pouch that can hold a Petzl EXO (individual evacuation system) and an anchor hook.

“When you turn your gear down over the top of your boots,” Mordecai noted, “the belt and buckle will be completely hooked up to all the systems.”

Lion Apparel of Dayton, Ohio, brought out its Integrated Rescue Harness this year – a National Fire Protection Association 1983 standard on life safety equipment Class II harness built into turnout pants between the outer shell and liner.

Karen Lehtonen, Lion’s director of products, said the system has a split-bellows pocket, secured by a hook and loop attachment on the side of the pants that holds the rope, descending device and carabiner. Breakaway tabs stabilize the system and prevent snagging when in use.

The Escape System

The harness engages when a firefighter pulls on the turnout pants. To use the escape system, a firefighter pulls the tether and descender from the pocket and connects to an anchor. The firefighter then pulls the removable pocket off the pants and throws it out the window or off the roof, following it down.

Fire-Dex of Medina, Ohio also introduced an integrated harness in turnout pants this year by creating a non-removable additional pocket within the bunker pants, behind the usual pocket on the side.

“The pocket runs from the hip to the bottom of the standard pocket and stores the rope,” said Fire-Dex Marketing Coordinator Chrissy Foster. “There also are pockets and a hook and loop system to house the carabiner, descent device and Crosby hook, all contained by a Velcro closure.”

The harness comes out through small slits in the front of the turnout pants to allow the D ring to hang on the outside. To deploy the system, the firefighter rips open a corner of a pocket, grabs the hook or carabiner, connects to an anchor and bails out.

Tony Wyman, vice president of sales and marketing for Honeywell First Responder Products in Dayton, Ohio, thinks 2010 will bring interesting innovations in gear.

“We plan on introducing a new line of bunker gear, Ranger Combat Ready gear, that is highly protective and comfortable, but with a lower cost than standard lines,” he said. “We expect it to be UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.) certified by the end of 2009 and be out in January.”

Wyman said the new line of gear is aimed at fire departments that are cost conscious because of the national economic situation, but still want protective and comfortable gear ensembles.

“In the past we only had our Morning Pride line of premium gear; however, the Ranger Combat Ready gear will have a whole series of options available,” he noted, “including some of the Morning Pride features, but not all of them.”

Redesigned Hood

Honeywell also introduced a redesigned firefighting hood last year.

“The big change was to take material from the front and place it on top of the hood,” Wyman said. “There’s no seam on the top, only a panel where the head rests. We also moved the side seams so they aren’t pressured by the helmet, and we made a larger face opening that stretches to 17 1/2 inches.”

Wyman said Honeywell also plans on offering two new series of boots in 2010. The first, the 9502 boot, is a lightweight neoprene structural firefighting boot with a molded athletic sole and rounded heel to make it easier to get up and down ladders. The boot also is seamless to protect against fireground chemicals seeping in.

Wyman said he couldn’t comment much on the second series of boots, unnamed as yet, but he predicted they would “be unlike anything seen on the boot market.”

Entry Level Cost

He said Honeywell was in the process of getting the boot UL certified and expected it “to have an athletic upper design and athletic sole to provide a better feel out of the box.” The boot will meet the NFPA 1971 standard on protective ensembles, he added, and will be low in bulk and weight at under 5 pounds.

At Globe, Mordecai said his company also is addressing the need for affordable gear “by introducing new turnout suits called Classix with updated designs that offer more features, but at entry level costs. Cost, he said, has moved up the problem list for many fire departments, “where they have to stretch dollars by buying value gear.”

This past year, Lion Apparel introduced a new thermal liner called Shadowbox that provides enhanced comfort features while still maintaining high levels of thermal protection and total heat loss.

For 2010 Lion will feature another thermal liner, Co’motion, which is constructed of five layers of material to move moisture off a firefighter’s body and move vapor through the liner.

The first layer of the liner is a high-lubricity facecloth that pulls sweat off the body. The next two layers of Co’motion move the sweat and body heat through moisture transport fabrics that use Lenzing FR, a natural fiber made from beech trees that delivers integrated flame resistance. Next a dry layer helps maintain an air space for thermal protection, and the final layer is a Crosstech moisture barrier.

Lion Apparel also had its CB-Xit gear ensemble certified by UL this year to NFPA 1971 and its option for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents.

“From the outside, it looks like standard turnout gear, but it has a different barrier in it to protect against CBRN agents, as well as different interface components to give it vapor protection,” Lehtonen said. “It’s the only CBRN ensemble that’s certified to the structural firefighting CBRN option.”

For 2010, Lehtonen said Lion Apparel will introduce a line of leather structural firefighting boots as part of a joint partnership it is forming with STC, a Canadian boot manufacturer.

A New Helmet

Fire-Dex plans on launching a new helmet in 2010, according to national sales and marketing manager Steve Bonamer.

“We acquired Chieftain in 2008 and took the existing product line and introduced stronger components and composition and higher heat resistance,” Bonamer said. “This will be a Fire-Dex line of helmets that are made in our Medina, Ohio, factory. We changed the layering of the fiberglass in the helmet’s shell and added color throughout the shell so if it scratches, it retains its color.”

Bonamer said Fire-Dex also has plans to introduce top-of-the-line and economy model boots in both leather and rubber early in 2010.

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