What is Turnout Gear?
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:
- Responding to fire alarms
- Suppression of structural, chemical, petroleum, and vehicle fires
- Contain and control fire-related incidents
- Operate and maintain fire apparatus
- Open and closed course driving
- Multi-company training evolutions
- Fire-ground pumping
- Lay down water supply lines from hydrants,
- Deploy hand-held attack lines from fire engines
- Place ladders on buildings
- Perform forcible entry
- Carry hose and equipment up the stairs to access and battle high-rise fires
- Rescue victims and evacuate occupants.
Structural firefighting also involves auto extrication, rescuing victims from entangled vehicles.
PPE Required for Structural Firefighters
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.
Turnout Gear – Fire Helmet
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 –
- Wearing the SCBA through all stages of the fire
- Wearing the entire suite of gear properly with sufficient overlapping for maximum protection
- Removing the bulk contamination to the largest extent possible while still at the fire scene
- Immendiatdietly wiping off soot from all body parts using wet wipes
- Changing and washing all layers of clothing after leaving the fireground
- Showering thoroughly after leaving the incident site
- Deep cleaning all the gear right after the fire
- Not taking contaminated clothing to one’s home
- Not storing the contaminated clothing in the vehicle
- Keeping the gear away from general living and sleeping areas
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!
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards:
1851 – https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=1851
1971 – https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=1971