5 STEPS TO SELECTING YOUR TURNOUT GEAR
NFPA is a standards writing organization, founded in 1896 and dedicated to the concept of voluntary consensus standards writing. While it is not an enforcing agency, NFPA enjoys a unique reputation and its standards have been adopted by all levels of government, in many cases giving the standards the force of law. One of the most notable features of the NFPA standards making process is that it is a full, open, consensus-based process. All NFPA standards are revised and updated every three to five years to ensure that they are kept current with new fire protection knowledge and technologies.
Step #1: Understanding Standards
The NFPA process requires “balanced” technical committees and is open to anyone who wishes to participate. These committees are appointed by Standards Council and appointments are based on such factors as technical expertise, professional standing, commitment to public safety and the ability to bring to the table, the point of view of a category of interested people or groups. No more than one-third of any committee can come from the same interest category and every NFPA standard includes a listing of the committee members and their categories.
NFPA 1851, 2020 EDITION - Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.
NFPA 1851 is a user document, originally published in February of 2001. The 2020 revision, published in August of 2019, marks the fourth complete revision to this user standard. The standard deals with fire departments’ selection and care of personal protective equipment (PPE), and contains chapters on administration, definitions, program, selection, inspection, cleaning, and decontamination, repair, storage, retirement, verification, and test procedures. This revision continues to require the 10-year mandatory retirement rule for structural gear and 5-year mandatory retirement for reflective outer shells specified in proximity gear.
- Chapter 4, the table of responsibilities for garment inspection, cleaning, and repair has been updated to reflect six different categories, including a new category for verified ISP’s (Independent Service Provider)
- Chapter 5 has added a new requirement for a department’s risk assessment, which is the consideration of need for two sets of ensemble elements or spare ensemble elements.
- Chapter 6, the garment complete liner inspection has been changed from a requirement after three years in service, to be required in year one and annually thereafter, or when conditions suggest more frequent evaluation.
- Chapter 7 now includes two decision trees, one to assist in deciding handling, cleaning, and disposition of ensemble elements, and a second decision tree that provides the approach for addressing specific types of contaminates. The term “on-scene cleaning” has been replaced with the term “preliminary exposure reduction” and associated definitions have been added to Chapter 3.
Additionally, in keeping with the emphasis on cleaning, a new test to determine the effectiveness of cleaning has been added as a requirement for any ISPs, cleaners, organizations, or manufacturers who wish to offer a cleaning service.
Step #2: Creating a Risk AssessmentNFPA 1851 Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting, and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132 require fire departments to perform a Risk Assessment prior to starting the selection process of structural and proximity firefighting ensembles and ensemble elements. The Risk Assessment should consider and include, but not be limited to, the hazards that can be encountered by structural or proximity firefighters.
NFPA 1851 requires the following:
- Types of duties performed
- Frequency of use of ensemble elements
- Organization’s experiences
- Incident operations
- Geographic location and climate
- Specific physical area of operation
- Likelihood of or response to CBRN terrorism incident
- Need for two sets of ensemble elements or spare
- ensemble elements
- Hazard/Risk identification
- Hazard/Risk evaluation
- Establishment of priorities of department
Based on this Risk Assessment, the organization should compile and evaluate information on the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the elements under consideration and that they interface properly with other personal protective items being used.
Step #3: Selecting a Style, Feature and Options
Different styles of turnout gear address different safety, performance, ergonomics, features, fit, and other requirements. There is no one solution that is right for every department, so it is important to compare turnout gear styles to select the style, feature set, and options that meet your department’s needs as identified in the Risk Assessment.
Innotex offers a wide range of turnout gear styles in the fire service. They each have a unique framework and standard feature set, but they all share the same Innotex quality, construction and can be customized with a huge range of options to meet the needs of your department.
Step #4: Learning About Materials
The primary purpose of the moisture barrier is to protect the firefighter from water and what NFPA refers to as the “common liquids”: chlorine, battery acid, aqueous film forming foam, gasoline, hydraulic fluid, and automobile antifreeze fluid. Then it is additionally tested for blood borne pathogens. The other purpose of the moisture barrier is to allow perspiration to move away from the wearer, also referred to as “breathability.” The moisture barrier is typically a bi-component membrane bonded to a lightweight fabric substrate.
The thermal liner provides a majority of the thermal protection from ambient heat. The more thermal liner there is, the less heat the firefighter will feel. The less thermal liner there is, the more heat the firefighter will feel. Thermal liners typically consist of a lightweight woven face cloth lining facing the body quilted to one or more layers of insulating non-woven batting. The face cloth is made from a variety of fibers in spun (like cotton) form or filament (like fishing line) or a combination of the two.
The outer shell of turnout gear serves as the frontline defense against heat, flames, and abrasions encountered in firefighting situations. It acts as a protective barrier for the moisture barrier and thermal liner, ensuring their integrity under extreme conditions. Designed to be resistant to rips, cuts, and tears, it maintains its structural integrity in demanding environments. Additionally, the shell's ability to shed water helps firefighters stay dry and comfortable during operations. Its contribution to approximately 25% of the total thermal protection underscores its crucial role in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of firefighters on the front lines.
It is in these layers and between these layers that air is trapped to insulate the firefighter from heat. All Innotex turnout gear is certified to NFPA standards in specific combinations of outer shells, moisture barriers, and thermal liners, which are referred to as “composites.”
Step #5: Evaluating, Specifying and PurchasingIf your department is in the market for new turnout gear, a properly conducted field test and evaluation can help ensure that you find the gear that best fits your needs.
When a field test and evaluation is being conducted, the organization should establish criteria to ensure a systematic method of comparing products in a manner related to their intended use. Assessment of the products’ performance should be relative to the organization’s needs and expectations.
The purpose of the evaluation is to improve the organization’s criteria over existing specifications. Examples of improving criteria over existing specifications would include consideration of the following:
- Technical Attributes
- Fit and Function
- In Service
A well-documented field test and evaluation that results in a recommendation based on quantifiable results can be a powerful tool in providing justification for the purchase of the turnout gear that will be the best solutions for your department.