The personal protective equipment (PPE) used by firefighters, complete with their fire kit and incident gear is known as Turnout Gear. Initially, the term”Bunker Gear” was used to describe it, as the turnout pants and boots were kept by the firefighter’s traditional bunk at the fire station to enable added ease of access and use.
What is Structural Firefighting?
Firefighters are required to perform public service duties for their fire departments. Some of the common structural firefighting tasks include:
While conventional turnout clothing was somewhat different, today’s turnout gear comprises a combination of turnout coats and pants, along with other PPE such as fire hood, helmet, gloves, and lighting. All of these are designed to withstand extreme heat, and even direct flame so that they largely remain unharmed when the wearer is accessing and battling a fire or other uneventful incident.
The advantage of this combination is overlapping coverage to create a protective envelope for the firefighter to operate in.
Turnout Gear – Pants and Coat
The pants and coat combination provides an added advantage to the wearer as they offer overlapping coverage, thereby making it more conducive for the firefighter to operate optimally. Each part of the firefighter’s pants and jacket are created using three layers i.e. an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal barrier. These ensure that the wearer remains protected against sharp objects and enjoys greater mobility.
Turnout coats are essentially a type of jacket with oversized pockets that enable the wearer to carry the required tools and equipment. The coats feature Velcro or zipper functions to ensure that the wearer can don them with ease. As per the NFPA 1500, the coat comprises Wristlets, 4-inch 100% Nomex or Solution Dyed Kevlar® coverings along the distal end of the coat arms in with the thumb joint. This helps enables a better fit around the wearer’s hand and provides additional protection to the skin between the glove and the coat.
The turnout pants feature large pockets, a Hook and D-ring + hook & loop fastener closure, heavy-duty quick adjust, and removable “H” style Deluxe cotton suspenders with padding as well as extra padding in the knee.
Both the pants as well as the jacket feature yellow reflective safety stripes to ensure that the firefighters remain visible to each other. Some of the most popular turnout gear is manufactured by Innotex.
The fire helmet is carefully designed to protect the firefighter from falling debris and injury to the head. All firefighter’s helmets comprise of 4 elements including an outer shell, impact ring, liner, and a chin strap. The hard shell of the helmet offers protection against heat and steam. Some helmets also feature goggles, a face shield or Bourkes, and/or a short folding shield for eye protection. These elements offer an additional level of protection to the wearer’s head and eyes when they undertake rescue and extrication operations.
Fire helmets are usually constructed using non-conductive materials which ensure protection against electrical currents. A combination of carbon fiber and plastic enables a lightweight design while the Kevlar lining ensures added strength and protection capabilities. Some of the most popular fire helmets in the world are manufactured by Bullard Fire & Rescue
Turnout Gear – Fire hood
While fire helmets protect the head, they are often unable to provide protection for the ears, neck and other exposed parts of the of the face. It is for this very reasons that a fire hood is worn by the firefighters. These hoods are designed in accordance with the guidelines set by NFPA 1975, such that they protect all the exposed parts of the face. Made using Nomex Knit Fabric, the hoods have a double-ply design. The hood is tucked into the collar of the fire coat, after which the helmet is worn, so as to seal the exposed part of the face. Some of the most popular fire hoods are manufactured by Innotex.
Turnout Gear – Gloves
Firefighting gloves are one of the most common gloves used by firefighters, though many personnel use work gloves as well.
While work gloves are mandatory for undertaking all types of fire services, firefighting gloves are not. Work gloves are usually made of leather or leatherite, and enable better mobility for tasks such as vehicle maintenance and hose bed relaying. On the other hand, fire fighters gloves also known as extrication gloves are made of a heavier material, that is both rip-proof as well as puncture resistant. These gloves are designed to be light-weight to enable the requisite level of dexterity for operating rescue equipment. Some of the most popular fire gloves are manufactured by HexArmor and Shelby Gloves.
Turnout Gear – Lighting
Lights play an essential part in any fire fighting and rescue operation, as they enable the firefighters to gauge the level of fire and smoke, spot victims, get a clear picture of the structure – its entry and exit ways and more. Some of the lights that form an integral part of the firefighters kit include e portable scene lights, helmet lights, right angle (or 90-degree) lights, as well as drone lights. Some of the most popular firefighter flashlights & scene lighting is manufactured by Streamlight Flashlights.
NFPA Standards on the Use and Maintenance of Turnout Gear
How to Maintain your Turnout Gear?
NFPA 1851 is the standard that governs selection, care, and maintenance of turnout clothing. As per the guidelines laid by this standard, “routine cleaning,” that is essentially hand washing, must be done every time after the turnout clothing has been exposed. Moreover, it is also prescribed that all the other gear must also be cleaned after each exposure. To follow this prescription, hosing down the gear after an incident is a standard. However, in case the contamination is worse, many organisations deploy hazmat decon showers for the deep cleaning of the gear.
As per the NFPA 1851, all firefighting gear must undergo advanced cleaning at least once a year. In addition, if the gear is exposed to soiling in a fire incident or is highly contaminated, then again it is essential to undertake advanced cleaning of the garments. While laundering may not decontaminate the turnout gear completely, when done in accordance manufacturer’s instruction it can help remove unwanted soils.
Since, a firefighter is likely to get exposed to carcinogens, especially during any fire extinguishing and extrication assignment, the Firefighter Cancer Support Network have provided certain suggestions to keep the exposures relative to PPE use and care to the minimum. These include –
Is it time to retire my turnout gear?
As per the NFPA 1851, “Structural turnout gear shall be retired when the garment is beyond repair and no longer able to pass an NFPA 1851 Advanced Inspection, or ten years from the date of manufacture, whichever comes first.” In case of proximity clothing, the reflective outer shells have been assigned a mandatory retirement date of five years from the date of manufacture, irrespective of their condition.
We hope that you now know all about Turnout Gear, its components, its use and importance. Through this article, we have also tried to shine a light on the maintenance, cleaning and retirement of the safety gear after every use, and in general. If you are on the lookout for reliable turnout gear at competitive prices, then we recommend that you check out the extensive range of turnout gear here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turnout Gear for Fire Fighters
What is TPP?
TPP or Thermal Protective Performance, is essentially the rating of a fabric or a composite which refers to its thermal insulation capabilities. TPP is measured by applying a flame to the outer surface of a four-inch-square area of the fabric or composite. The time needed to reach the equivalent of a second degree burn is then recorded. This time (in seconds) is finally multiplied by the heat flux to get the TPP rating of the chosen material. A higher Thermal Protective Performance rating indicates the greater capability of the fabric to offer thermal protection.
How much heat can turnout gear withstand?
Turnout gear are designed to withstand extreme temperatures as high as 1600° F or 870° C.
What to wear under turnout gear?
In most cases cotton is considered to be the chosen fabric for your station clothing, as it absorbs moisture and keeps you comfortable throughout. When it comes to withstanding extreme tempaeryures through, Nylon and Polyester are the preferred faci for station wear!
Historically, firefighters have not had access to the same level of protective clothing used today. Most fires were fought from the outside of buildings, and structures were rarely entered. Early in the history of firefighting, a firefighter’s outer clothing was more for warmth and dryness than for protection from fire. In the early 19th century, felt caps were worn of various designs and were more for decoration than service; this early headgear did not provide any protection against flame or head injury but did keep water off the firefighter’s face. The modern firefighter’s helmet was developed in 1830 by luggage maker Henry Gratacap, who was also a volunteer firefighter in New York City. Gratacap recognized the need for a well-designed helmet that provided maximum protection to the wearer. This helmet is immediately recognizable today as the “New York” style of helmet, and little has changed in terms of its shape. The helmet had a brimmed front to affix a face shield, usually adorned with a company name and number. It featured eight rib sections on the dome for added rigidity and a long rear brim that channeled water away from the wearer’s neck.
Firefighting trench coats, made of leather or canvas and later rubber, were the precursor to modern turnout jackets. Early coats had felt or wool liners to provide warmth in winter. These layers later developed into the thermal and flame protection liners found in today’s turnout gear. Earlier rubber coats were much longer than today’s modern turnout jackets, reaching down to a firefighter’s mid-thigh. They were worn with long rubber boots called “three-quarter boots” which reached above the firefighter’s knees. This interface of the boot and coat left a large gap of protection against fire. This system has since been replaced by the modern combination of a jacket, pants with suspenders, and shorter rubber or leather boots, although some departments still wear the old style of gear.
The combination of modern triple-layer turnout gear with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), personal alert safety system (PASS) device, and modern communications equipment is intended to provide comprehensive protection against smoke, heat, water, steam, flashovers, and even direct flame for a short time. Modern turnout jackets and pants are made of fire-retardant fabrics, mainly aramids such as Nomex and Kevlar or polybenzimidazole (PBI). The National Fire Protection Association publishes the requirements for fire protective clothing under NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, which specifies “the minimum design, performance, safety, testing, and certification requirements for structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements that include coats, trousers, coveralls, helmets, gloves, footwear, and interface components.
Many types of hand protection are available to firefighters today, the most common being the work glove and the structural firefighting glove.
Work gloves are a must for all fire services. They are used when gloves are required, but actual firefighting gloves are not. They allow better mobility to perform various types of functions from relaying hose beds to vehicle maintenance. Work gloves are usually made of leather or a leather-like material.
Extrication gloves are similar in design and appearance to auto mechanic’s gloves but are made of a heavier rip-proof and puncture-resistant material such as Kevlar while still lightweight enough to allow manual dexterity to operate rescue equipment and sometimes enough to take a victim’s pulse. These are used in urban search and rescue, vehicle extrication and related applications, but are not rated for firefighting.
For an actual working fire, structural firefighting gloves must be worn. Structural gloves tend to be the last piece of protective equipment to be donned; usually, because the free dexterity of the fingers is required to perform functions such as properly placing an SCBA mask on and accurately tightening a helmet strap. The gloves fit over the wristlets and under the distal part of the coat sleeve, ensuring full enclosure of the latter arm. Gloves are designed to protect from extreme heat and various penetrating objects and to allow dexterity. Usually, the latter is sacrificed to give adequate protection from heat and sharp objects. Newer gloves are more lightweight and don’t lose their dexterity when they dry after becoming wet, unlike leather gloves.