Manufacturers Roundtable

  Firehouse® Magazine invited a representative sampling of personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers to join our latest roundtable discussion centering on firefighter safety issues. We thank the companies participating in this roundtable...


  Firehouse® Magazine invited a representative sampling of personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers to join our latest roundtable discussion centering on firefighter safety issues. We thank the companies participating in this roundtable and invite other manufacturers to join in...


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MONDOUX: We have seen a few requests, mostly from big cities, for a rappelling/escape device integrated in the turnout pants (escape harness). We are slightly concerned about an integrated harness in the pants for the following reasons: This will add extra weight to the pants and firefighters are always looking for something lighter. It may contribute to premature wear of the moisture membrane, the crucial layer for stopping chemical and blood pathogen penetration. Moisture membrane wear is already a concern. It may hinder the mobility of the lower body and comfort. INNOTEX does offer the option on pants for an external harness system. We feel that it has some advantages, such as not potentially damaging the moisture membrane layer, giving the firefighters the opportunity to decide when to utilize it upon arriving at a scene and being able to choose the type of harness a department wishes to use.

As a side note, the SCBA manufacturers have and/or are looking at adding some extra webbing, strapping to go around the thighs of lower body on the current SCBA harness to act like a rappelling/escape device. This adds very little weight, is external so it does not damage the moisture membrane and is always available as a firefighter that goes into a burning building must have on an SCBA airpack.

LEHTONEN: The interest in personal escape devices integrated into PPE has increased over the last 12–18 months. Many departments are conducting risk assessments to determine the need for the devices and what types of systems would work best in the environments they face. Interoperability of the devices with other PPE and the everyday tasks firefighters face remain a challenge and concern on how to best implement such devices. LION works closely with our end users to address these challenges and concerns and collaborate on solutions for a safer fire service.

MORDECAI: In recent years, we have seen increasing demand for internal harnesses in our turnout pants that can be worn comfortably and easily every day. The Health and Safety Committee at DC Fire & Rescue worked with us to develop an internal harness pant to meet their requirements: an internal Class 2 harness that can be turned down over their boots, pulled up and secured by just one buckle to close both pants and harness, and a descender system that was accessible below the jackets. They felt that a harness was more than just an emergency escape device but also useful everyday as a ladder belt and for firefighter rescue in conjunction with a drag-rescue device.

WYMAN: There's been a very significant increase over the past two years. Fire departments are very interested in providing the best escape systems available for their members. That's why we created the Class II Spider Harness system and the Life Grip belt. Our customers were telling us they wanted a system better than what existed in the market. So we responded with externally adjustable leg loops in our internally mounted harness system, the first of its kind in the industry. The system comes with a number of other features that were designed in partnership with fire service members and emergency egress instructors. For 2011, we will have a number of other systems available based on our current offering.

NICHOLAS: Yes. These most frequently are used with the pant, and can be internal or external. Some states, such as New York, may actually mandate their use.

HANSEN and KRUSE: Yes. We are evaluating various new options for both Quest and VIKING pants in regards to integrated and external harnesses. We do see more departments inquire about this option. However, sometimes when evaluating pros and cons — including cost, fit, weight, bulk, etc. — the harnesses may not be the best option. We try to make our gear as dynamic as possible so solutions like harnesses can be added individually and after initial purchase in case the need gets more apparent. But we are looking at various new options for harnesses that will fit our strategy of building the lightest and most comfortable gear in the market.

Q: With proper wear and cleaning, PPE is now rated for a 10-year life. Will that life span ever increase?

LONGARZO: I really cannot imagine the life span would ever increase to more than 10 years. NFPA standards change every five years, and each five-year NFPA cycle strives to increase safety and protection for the firefighter. Once you pass the five-year mark in age, gear will conceivably fail to be in compliance with the current NFPA standard. Firefighters put a lot of demands on their gear, and they must constantly inspect their gear to ensure it is providing the level of protection necessary for their own safety. A firefighter's safety should be the number-one priority while allowing them to perform their job to the best of their ability, and having gear that is old and out of NFPA compliance can seriously compromise the firefighter's safety and their ability to perform effectively.