To be effective, working with the right equipment is a must. In the profession of firefighting, this means having the proper firefighting gear and tools needed to accomplish tasks quickly and safely. When considering what type of firefighting gear one needs, it is important to view several factors.
- Firefighter’s Longevity – The average life span of firefighting equipment varies greatly, depending on its use. For example, one partner in our study stated that his boots only lasted six months before they needed resoling, while another said they would last 3 to 5 years under similar conditions. Other factors also come into play for this factor to be considered, including the firefighter’s body chemistry and how they store their equipment. Suppose you are a firefighter who sweats profusely. In that case, there is a chance that your clothing will degrade fairly rapidly because of bacterial action if it does not get dried properly after training sessions or calls where extrication might have occurred. The same thing can happen if your equipment sits wet in a vehicle. On the other hand, if you dry and store their clothing properly after every use and are careful not to leave it sitting wet, then you may be able to get more longevity out of your protective gear.
- Safety & Compliance – Firefighting equipment manufacturers continue to find ways to improve the materials they use and the processes involved in making them, so there has been an improvement in how protective clothing holds up under fire conditions. Without discussing all of the products we tested for this report, I can say that there were no “hits when it came to safety and compliance. Some products were much better than others, but none failed to meet NFPA standards or other safety requirements.
- Value for Money – Several factors determine the value of a piece of firefighting equipment, including how it is built and what materials are used, and its service life before it needs to be replaced. It also depends on if you buy from a local supplier who can service any problems with the protective clothing and your budget because purchasing items one at a time will cost more in the long run than buying complete sets or packages, which reduce costs through volume purchases.
- Handling / Compatibility with other gear – This factor relates to how easy it is to put on or take off the protective clothing and how compatible this gear is with other articles of equipment. For example, gloves impervious to fire may not be compatible with your leather ones because they might cause them to become stiff. Your facepiece also needs to be compatible with most if not all of your helmets, so make sure you test out different options before making a final purchase decision.
- Training Requirements – Some products require more training than others when it comes to donning and wearing them properly or using specific accessories that come with protective clothing. The good news is that many manufacturers have videos available online showing people how best to put on their products for maximum protection against heat or flame.
- Practicality – I’ve tried on several firefighters’ coats and pants, and I know the first thing most people do is ask if their cell phone will fit in one of the pockets or not. If you need some space inside your clothing, then that might rule out those products that have fewer pockets or no storage capabilities at all where this kind of gear belongs, such as helmets with built-in face pieces, gloves for structural firefighting, etc. Although some products can be more flexible than others when it comes to practicality, they may not meet other criteria on this list, so we found ourselves weighing different priorities depending on what we were looking for at the time.
- Maintenance Requirements – This criterion is a very important factor for those who have a lot of gear and may not be able to afford getting rid of it quickly because it can cost a few hundred dollars per firefighter to replace an entire ensemble if certain pieces wear out faster than others due to the frequency that they are used or how much maintenance is required, such as rotating gloves every six months, etc.
In conclusion, finding the right firefighting equipment for your needs is not an easy task, but it can be made easier by understanding what makes one product different than another and how that affects you as a firefighter.