Protective Clothing for Firefighters; How Body Armor has Developed to Help the Fire Service

Stealth-black Level 2Firefighters are called to undertake incredibly difficult and dangerous jobs, risking their lives to protect our communities. Their work is stressful and punishing, and while they are usually provided with the best in high-intensity protection, their need for additional protection is all too often overlooked. Keeping these brave men and women safe against every sort of injury is achievable, and therefore should be considered by all.

It is a sad fact that Firefighters are regularly attacked and subjected to violence while working to protect our communities. Even without considering the numerous reports of specific attacks against Firefighters, the increasingly varied and dangerous situations Firefighters are called to may subject them to violence, and more than ever they are the first on the scene after severe terrorist attacks. Many may argue that protecting Firefighters against violence only signals a readiness for attacks, and pushes them into a more combative role. However, protective clothing is an accessible option that all Firefighters need to consider.

The threats facing Firefighters may be vastly different to those facing those in other professions. However, the basic level of protection necessary is the same; ballistic protection. Police Officers are provided with and encouraged to wear bullet proof vests because of the major threat of firearms, and handguns in particular. The lowest levels of bullet resistance available will protect against the majority of handgun ammunition, and are available in incredibly thin and lightweight vests.

The materials used in these vests are incredibly strong and lightweight, and can absorb and displace large amounts of energy. This allows them to trap and stop a bullet. This protection should be considered the minimum level recommended for all Firefighters, but unfortunately firearms are not the only threat facing them. As the US Fire Administration shows, there are sadly many causes of death among Firefighters, and their protective clothing therefore needs to be versatile and help protect against numerous threats.

1505037_478010455644665_1544967217_nOne of the most serious threats is of course heat. The clothing already worn by Firefighters is capable of dealing with incredibly high temperatures, and it is important that any other protectiveclothing manages to offer this protection also. Turnout gear is often made from much the same materials as body armor, and uses fabrics that have incredible resistance to high temperatures and flames. This means that, fortunately, most bullet proof vests are capable of dealing with high temperatures and is well-suited to the environments Firefighters work in.

On the other hand, heat is still not the only major threat that needs to be considered. While fire and heat can cause a great many different injuries, all of which need to be protected against, the threat of harm from collapsing buildings or explosions is just as prominent and just as serious. If nothingelse, protective e clothing has to be durable to ensure it continues to protect against these threats. Body armor, and specifically a bullet resistant vest, is very useful in this case; the materials they use can help mitigate the damage caused by impact and blunt trauma.

Another important benefit of body armor is its discretion and ergonomic design, meaning that protection can be achieved without a penalty to movement. The environments that Firefighters work in are physically demanding and demand a high level of fitness and the ability to adapt. Anything that restricts or hampers movement, therefore, can be life-threatening. The development of the materials used in body armor means that vests are far more flexible than they once were, and can be worn close to the skin without intruding in any way.

Wearing a vest tight to the skin may raise some concerns for Firefighters, as it potentially increases the heat they will be experiencing. Again, body armor has been adapted and developed to deal with this; as products become lighter, thinner, and more ergonomic, airflow is enhanced and movement is improved. This means that even when worn for extended periods a vest will be comfortable. Furthermore, some vests are available with specific temperature-regulating materials that can help further keep the wearer cool.

commander-blackThese temperature-regulating materials also help combat the sweat inherent to the job, which can lead to not only exhaustion and dehydration, but burns and even cardiac arrest. By wicking moisture away from the skin some vests can help the body to cool itself, again proving its use for Firefighters. The development of materials is leading manufacturers to find more and more inventive solutions to these problems.

There are a lot of similarities between the armor worn by Firefighters and bullet proof vests, and both are invaluable in protecting the lives of these brave people. The research and development for both focuses on the same areas: creating comfortable and unrestrictive protective gear that can deal with a wide range of threats. Firefighters are called to an increasing number of incidents, and are particularly important in disaster relief and at large scale incidents. Firefighters are usually the first responders to emergencies, and may be in a situation with a number of unidentified threats. Even when called to deal with a fire, the cause may be unknown, as any number of other incidents may occur, and details about the situation may be scarce. Having a bullet proof vest available for use when needed means that a Firefighter can perform his or her duties safe in the knowledge that he/she is protected against any number of unknown threats.

This is a submitted article from Safeguard Armor.