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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Default PPE Under XTREAM Conditions

    This topic is to discuss how PPE reacts under extream conditions, how PPE can be improved, and how PPE from different organizations (US and other) varies in its protective properties and approach.

    What prompted this topic was some very scary pictures I have came across lately, and a recent experience at a Haystack fire which demonstrated to me just how thin my 10 year old Morning Pride Black Nomex turnouts can seem (or are getting, Nomex and such does age). They have red spots now on the black background. At lest we have our new turnouts ordered, thank you Fire Act.

    Here are some of the pictures that have gotten me interested in this topic.

    Go to this link, A German Fire service website. If you cant read German, then you are out of luck with the description, but the pictures speak a thousand words. They are testing their new Nomex PPE, in a rather, um... Well, its friggin nuts. 1000 liters of Kerosine!!!

    http://www.berliner-feuerwehr.de/189.html

    Looks to be pretty thick stuff. The hood probly is like or better then a Reed Hood. That also cant be good for your SCBA. Rookie Initiation??? Intersting gloves, they cover what is useualy a weak link, the wrists.

    Close call, story on Firehouse.com, one of the top pics of 2003.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=45&id=23638


    Photo By Glen E. Ellman - www.fortworthfire.com

    No injuries reported (thank God, and wow) from the fall or the extream fire conditions, but that PPE is toasted big time.

    More pictures of the above incident here.

    http://www.fortworthfire.com/cgi-bin...y=Firefighters

    These are just 2 examples that I have noticed recently that depict firefighters in truely extream conditions. It has gotten me thinking...scary thoughts. In each of the above case, there was no or little damage done to the fire fighters, but the PPE was destroyed for all intents and purposes.

    The common weak links in the protective ensamble are the wrists, knees, shoulders, and to some extend the head due to the relatively thin hoods (not counting Reeds or some other designs). Compression of the PPE material and moisture are often the culprits of burns.

    A lot of modern PPE is makeing progress in these areas. Things like thumb through rist cuffs, extra protection on the knees and shoulders, etc... Of interest to me are some of the non US approaches. The parka like hood on the German PPE is one example.

    Some areas of interest I would like to discuss as well as the topic in general.

    SCBAs in these extream conditions. Do different SCBAs hold up to this sort of emergeny situtations in different ways? Are there any tests that have been done on SCBAs to gauge how they are affected by the worst of conditions? A lot of the close call reports I have read mentioned that it becomes difficult to breath in events like a flashover or extream heat. This I asume is caused by the SCBA being damaged or overcome by the extream conditions. Regulator parts expanding and sticking up a bit?

    SCBA facepieces in extream conditions. Just how much protection does the facepiece give when compared to the bunker gear? There are reports of the facepieces crystilizing and begining to melt. Worst cases report a breach of the facepiece. As far as I know, most facepieces are polycarbonate and silicone rubber in varying quantities. The Fortworth firefighter above has a Scott AVN 2000 facepiece, which is made mostly from Polycarbonate (correct?) with a silicone rubber seal and a Nomex hairnet. It looks to have sustainted signficant damage, but it obviously didnt fail completely otherwise severe injury would have resulted. Judeging by the flip donwn faceshield, the heat was more then enought to melt that sort of material. Any speculation as to wheather the face shield helped to protect the integrity of the SCBA face piece? The trend seems to be moveing away from face shields more to googles and bourkes, which it seem would offer less protectio to the SCBA facepiece. Any speculation on what sort of facepiece offers more protection, the more silicon rubber ones (IE Drager, Older SCBA facepieces) or the more poly ones (IE Scott, ISI Viking).

    SCBA bottles. Crabon wrap is getting to be the common bottle it seems. I have not come across any information on how extream heat can affect a carbon wrap bottle. I cant imagine that it would do it much good. One worst case senario that poped into my head would be the Fortworth close call. That bottle would have been subjected to very high heat, and then the fall. If the bottle had been damaged by the heat, it possibly could have ruptured. In that particular case, and much the worse for the firefighter, the bottle was empty. But, in the case of a bottle with >4000 PSI still remaining, a bottle breach would have been catestrophic. I would imagine that a perfect brand new bottle could have ruptured from a fall like that if the valve stem had hit wrong. Would a heat damaged bottle fare any worse?

    When to take PPE out of service??? In the pictures of the German test above, there is a HUGE amount of PPE discoloration. It is very easy to identify on the Black Nomex. Hell, it turned white! There are a number of sets of black Nomex PPE on my Voly department that have significant amounts of discolorization on the problem areas. The knees, shoulders mostly. This varies from red to some small patches of white. Obviously this should be taken out of service, but in has not been a budget reality until this year thanks to 2 different grants. A trained PPE inspector can identify damaged PPE and such, but how much damage is acceptable for a working set of bunkers? A lot of voly departments I know are useing stuff that should have been tossed long ago, it is just a funding problem.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

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  2. #2
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Default YOU WILL FAIL....

    ...before your gear does. Lets look at the picture closely. Yes,the firefighters faceshield is quite melted. His gear,although dirty appears to be intact. Modern gear will withstand temperatures in excess of 800 degrees F. Your body is not. You will NOT survive a TRUE flashover. The gear we have today is the best in the entire history of the fire service. We really need to hammer the fact home that you can very easily be killed or seriously injured no matter how good your gear is.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Default Re: YOU WILL FAIL....

    Originally posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
    ...before your gear does. Lets look at the picture closely. Yes,the firefighters faceshield is quite melted. His gear,although dirty appears to be intact. Modern gear will withstand temperatures in excess of 800 degrees F. Your body is not. You will NOT survive a TRUE flashover. The gear we have today is the best in the entire history of the fire service. We really need to hammer the fact home that you can very easily be killed or seriously injured no matter how good your gear is.
    True enough. That is a very valid training issue, PPE does not make you invulnerable.

    I was hoping to more closely study/speculate on the science of PPE so to speak.

    But yes, it needs to be hammered into firefighters.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Default

    Food for thought on current future direction.

    PPE Standards
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  5. #5
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Samson....the "color spots" are from where the fabric was heated and then the steam and water caused the dye to run out of the fabric. This is common with fabric that is dyed for color after it is manufactured. It does not however, effect the protection rating..(so I have been told).

    Mikey sums it up very nicely.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Hmmm, I was told by a PPE "Expert" that most discoloration of that sort is a sign the the material has be subjected to heat beyond its ability to handle. Like in the first link to the German PPE test. Or, if the garment is very old (like my Departments) the some of the reddish tint can be atributed to UV damage that the garment has sustained from to many years in the sun/service.

    IIRC black PPE is the easiest to detect heat/UV damage on.

    From what I gather some of the modern materials, like PBI, can only take about 5 years of normal service before UV rays completely deteriorate the garment material.

    I think the discolorization of my and my departments black Nomex PPE is a combination of both extensive UV exposure (10+ years for the majority) and some very high radiant heat exposures from various types of fires.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  7. #7
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    The turnout gear issued at the Massachusetts Fire Academy to the instructors and support staff goes through "hell" during burn days.
    Some of this gear is over 5 years old, yet still protects the wearer...why? Inspections, repairs and cleaning on a regular basis.

    We have to get out of the mindset that dirty, ripped gear is a "badge of honor". Turnout gear should be inspected and cleaned at least quarterly and replaced when necessary. Composite SCBA cylinders have a life of 15 years, maybe it's time to seta life expectancy on turnout gear.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Clean PPE, what a concept! Seriously, I know what you are saying, it is one of my pet peves, dirty PPE.

    Worst case I can recall off hand. My crew boss from the 1996 wildfire season in MT decided that from the beginning of the season until the end, he was only going to wear one yellow Nomex shirt, and never wash it.

    That was a pretty buisy fire season with lots of line time. The crew boss did as he had proclaimed, he NEVER washed or changed out that frigging Nomex shirt.

    My lord the stench, a mix of stale sweat, soot, chainsaw premix, and various colonies of micro organisms. It was no longer a yellow shirt, it was literaly a dark sort of brown, with streaks of black and red (from the premix) running from the shoulder that we would carry the saw on. The fumes that thing would give off could be overwhealimg in a confined space.

    When we were asigned to an engine, we made the shirt ride in a tool compartment. I think at about this time the shirt started to take on a life of its own. It didnt like riding in the tool compartment, but is had no choice.

    There was a bit of yellow left on it, just where the straps of the crew bosses radio ches harnis had been all season. There was a yellow X on the back of the shirt, and a semi yellow square on the front.

    The shirt was getting crusty enough that you could almost make it stand up on its own.

    The stranger thing was that the crew boss would regularly clean his helmet and jumper pack.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

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