PPE Manufacturers Solicit Design Ideas From Firefighters

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Morning Pride’s Project Heroes personal protective equipment uses innovative interfaces to meet the NFPA 1971 CBRN option for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective qualities.

Makers of personal protective equipment (PPE) say they are highly responsive to firefighters when it comes to designing gear that works on the fire ground and offers maximum safety.

Many manufacturers send teams to work with firefighters in departments around the country to determine what they would like to see in a piece of protective equipment and then figure out how best to work those wishes into their products.

Comfort, motion and safety were attributes touted by companies displaying new PPE products this spring at the Fire Department Instructors Conference trade show in Indianapolis.

Morning Pride by Honeywell of Dayton, Ohio, a maker of PPE ensembles for structural firefighting, proximity use, urban search and rescue, wildland firefighting and EMS, showed its Project Heroes firefighting gear, which was developed and tested in conjunction with firefighters. The company said the gear would be available for purchase early this summer.

The Project Heroes initiative, spearheaded by the International Association of Fire Fighters, was created to develop and field test structural firefighting PPE that would meet the National Fire Protection Association 1971 standard’s option for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) protective qualities.


Project Heroes gear is designed so that certain interfaces can be semi-permanent, such as connections between boot barrier material and pants barrier material because the two pieces of gear must be separated to maintain.
Likewise, other areas of the gear ensemble, such as the gloves, have to be able to be broken away because a firefighter might take off a glove and put it back on multiple times at a fire scene.

The Project Heroes gear uses two methods at the boots-pants interface, one where the two elements are stitched together to provide a solid layer of CBRN protection and a second where a gasketing material connects the boots and pants barriers so they can be detached.

In addition, the new gear uses magnets where a magnetic ring is mounted to the glove’s cuff section and another magnetic ring is attached to the moisture barrier of the coat. When a firefighter puts on a glove, the two magnets attract and seal themselves, allowing the firefighter to break the seal at any time to take them off and put them back on as needed.

The gear also features an insulating cooling system that provides extra thermal insulation and upper torso cooling; an integrated three-layer hood with a CBRN barrier layer sealed at the collar line; a flexible gasket seal that fits a faceplate of a self-contained breathing apparatus; a built-in collapsible fly that eliminates the need for a zipper closure; and a front closure interface to prevent inward leakage.
Participating in the project with the IAFF and Morning Pride are the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and International Personal Protection Inc., a Texas consulting firm. The initiative is funded through a $2 million federal Department of Homeland Security grant.

Lion Apparel of Dayton, Ohio, introduced a new thermal liner called “com’motion” for bunker gear at FDIC, constructed of five layers of material designed to move moisture off a firefighter’s body and move vapor through the liner. Howard Fleming, Lion’s regional sales manager, said com’motion stands for “comfort in motion,” which he called “a whole new construction that layers innovative materials to maximize protection, optimize comfort and minimize resistance. Your turnout moves with you, not against you.”

The first layer of the liner is a smooth facecloth that pulls sweat off the body. The next two layers of com’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.
Exceptional Durability

Next a dry layer helps maintain a constant air space for thermal protection, and the final layer is a Crosstech moisture barrier.

Another manufacturer, Southern Mills Inc. of Union City, Ga., introduced a new fabric at the show – Tecasafe plus – a high visibility, flame resistant fabric that marketing manager Elliad Granger called the “latest advancement in protective fabrics for wildland firefighting garments.”

Granger said the bright yellow fabric is soft, breathable and flexible with superior moisture management, yet has inherent flame resistant protection that stands up to heat.

“It also has exceptional durability,” Granger noted. “It has good resistance to abrasion and a long-lasting appearance after washing.”

Viking Life-Saving Equipment, a Denmark-headquartered manufacturer with sales offices in Miami, Fla., introduced a line of lightweight and flexible turnout gear at FDIC. Called the PS76 series, the coat has raglan sleeves with pre-bent arms to offer a better fit, a built in drag rescue device at the back of the coat’s neck and a contoured storm flap to avoid water penetration.

The bunker pants feature a diamond crotch insert for better flexibility, reinforced Ara-Shield cuffs for low maintenance, padded knees to protect against compression burns and low profile suspender attachments without buttons.

Soren Hansen, Viking’s sales manager for defense and fire, said the new series of gear was designed as an affordable alternative to the usual $1,500 to $2,500 cost of fully outfitting a firefighter. Hansen said the PS76 series runs around $1,100 for a set.

“This gear offers the same fit and comfort as the top-of-the-line bunker gear,” he said, “and it is NFPA approved.”

New Features

Chieftain Safety Manufacturing of Medina, Ohio, touted new features in its 1910 helmet series that was on display at FDIC. “We’ve redone the Valor and Guardian helmets with stronger composites, made them more heat resistant, put in reversible ear flaps and added stronger hardware,” said John Franks, the Great Plains regional sales manager.
Both styles feature through-color pigmented fiberglass composite shells, single-piece polyurethane foam impact inserts, face shield wing protectors, a three-piece headband with adjustable ratchet assembly and a Nomex jersey knit forehead band that seals to a SCBA face mask.
Blocking X-rays

Also at FDIC, Trelleborg Viking Inc. of Mansfield, Mass., introduced the Demron-W CBRN suit.

Tim Flaherty, general manager, said the suit contains embedded metal particles and other compounds capable of blocking X-rays, low-energy gamma rays and other types of nuclear emission.

“Until Demron-W, first responders have been forced to choose what protective suit to wear based on the specific threat they faced,” he said.
“With the Demron-W suit, we eliminate the guesswork by providing complete protection from all types of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards.”

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