Manufacturers Roundtable: Personal Protective Equipment

Firehouse Magazine invited a cross-section of personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers to join our latest roundtable discussion centering on firefighter safety issues.

With NFPA 1851's increased emphasis on turnout gear maintenance, CROSSTECH 3-Layer Moisture Barrier offers the best possible combination of durability, THL and TPP available in today's market. CROSSTECH 3-Layer Moisture Barrier provides the breathability and comfort that firefighters need when encountering the high temperatures at emergency scenes; at the same time, its rugged three-layer construction adds an increased level of durability against abrasion and flexing, which means added safety and protection against blood, body fluids, NFPA common chemicals and water.

PPE garments made with Gore CHEMPAK Selectively Permeable Fabric provide a high level of THL while protecting the firefighter against specified toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) and chemical warfare agents (CWAs). NFPA 1971 states that PPE ensembles meeting the CBRN option of the standard are intended to provide a "minimum level of protection for firefighting personnel from specified CBRN agents." Gore CHEMPAK Selectively Permeable Moisture Barrier Fabric is the only barrier available in the market today that is component recognized to the NFPA 1971 CBRN option and has successfully met the minimum barrier performance requirements and extensive preconditioning challenges established by the standard. Comprehensive ensemble field testing is expected to begin shortly with departments throughout North America to firmly establish fitness for use. Gore is confident that PPE ensembles using this product will be certified to the NFPA 1971 CBRN option in the near future.

FIREHOUSE: At what temperature and for how long does the PPE provide protection before the wearer could become injured during severe structural firefighting conditions?

BLAKE: The outer shell is PPE's primary defense against direct flame and heat, while the thermal liner provides thermal insulation. These two components, combined with the moisture barrier, determine the thermal protective performance (TPP) and total heat loss (THL) of a specific set of gear. While the moisture barrier is not the primary protection against flame or heat, it does have the greatest impact on breathability, which studies have shown to be an effective way to reduce firefighter heat stress. When taken together, THL and TPP are an excellent measurement of performance provided by a particular combination of outer shell, thermal liner and moisture barrier. Additionally, the PPE inspection process should not be overlooked. Although the moisture barrier is not the primary protection against flames, it can suffer thermal damage if the outer shell or thermal barrier has been compromised.