So as the ‘shout’ comes in and you get dressed in the appliance bay ready to attend an incident or you are in ‘isolation’ before your run at a RTC Challenge you will all be wearing PPE of one form or another. Generally this will consist of full firefighting kit or rescue kit, helmet with visor, eye protection, gloves (with medical gloves underneath), dust mask and boots.
The likelihood is that most of us will have and seen different types of firekit and that even your neighbouring service will have different styles to each other and at UKRO Challenges I have seen all manner of overalls and kit. So, what is right! I suppose that is predominantly down to you and your service but as we discuss this further, I would hope that this will promote discussion and encourage some of you to get more involved with kit procurement.
PPE is an area that is often discussed and it is also an area that has evolved greatly in recent times is. However, most FRS now have procured contracts that are managed for you and generally last for a number of years and so regular change is not always an option. Having said that, our PPE today has excellent qualities and can come in many styles and colours, but depending on your FRS, you may attend RTC’s in standard fire kit that is worn at all incidents. As technology has moved on in all areas of equipment, so it has in clothing and now we have specific designs in wildfire, USAR and of course rescue.
In my 28 years on the run as a firefighter and officer as well as the 20 years as a member of the RBFRS Rescue Team, I have seen many types of kit used. It is at UKRO/WRO events that you will see teams from all over the world wearing all manner of kit, some of it good and some of it not so! However, it always promotes good discussion and especially abroad will lead you into discussions with manufacturers that are often exhibiting at these events. This has led to me being directly involved with some of the major PPE companies assisting their research and development. Also, these manufacturers assist in promoting some of these challenges so if you get a chance it is always worth having a discussion. It is also up to you to take what is new and perhaps “the way forward” back to your own FRS procurement teams and get involved in shaping the future for your service.
I am going to have a look at some of the PPE that is available to us and what we wear on the road and at challenges and what could work and offer us. I am also going to look at what equipment we should also have at incidents that is not directly PPE but is vital in our operations that provides safety to us and the patients we are rescuing.
Fire Kit or Overalls
In this case you are limited to what your FRS provides, but as your service looks to procure new kit, in my opinion the way forward is overalls. A number of services use these already and from my discussions with them, they are much preferred.
Generally they are much more lightweight and less bulky, ensuring that if the need requires you can squeeze into that tight space before time is available to create space. There are many designs available and you can have what you need added such as pockets, knee pads and built in loops and I also like a method of pulling in the end of the sleeves and legs such as elastic or Velcro.
In RBRFS our extrication team wear Derby-Unitex overalls as does our Heavy Rescue Unit who also has the addition of a jacket depending on situation, incident type or weather. We have found these to be an excellent addition to our PPE and our crews like them and having worn them myself I fully agree with them!
One item that I consider invaluable though not PPE but does link in are tool belts. In RBFRS we carry 2 on all appliances that the technical team will wear. As well as carrying a numerous array of hand tools they are also ideal for carrying spare PPE such as extra blood gloves/glasses and are much easier to access than a flapped pocket.
Going back a number of years, we tended to have large bulky helmets and you would often see a number of them on the roof of a vehicle as we were working, but today there is a huge choice available and most are very snug fitting and comfortable. Most come with various in built glasses and visors and it is best practice that the glasses stay down for the whole extrication and the visor is generally only used for hydraulic operation and glass management. I do see a number of extrication teams wearing separate glasses instead of the built in ones as they are generally smaller and more comfortable and also do not steam up as much. Our extrication team wear Bolle ones and they are extremely good and fit for purpose. If you do find the glasses and visors steaming up there are a number of products on the market such as ‘fog off’ which help keep them clear. In RBFRS we wear the Rosenbauer helmet and our extrication team wear Targa.
Again these have evolved over the years and there are now many styles available. Most services have gone away from having one generic glove and now offer a rescue/extrication glove as well. My own personal favourite that I have used in the extrication team for many years, are Ringers which are extremely strong and puncture resistant. They have excellent dexterity and the palm and fingers are abrasion resistant and also an elasticated wrist that keeps out glass and debris. A number of extrication teams use them but anything that has similar qualities of these and you won’t go far wrong.
These need to be fit for purpose and are generally only worn for glass management. They should always be put on as a matter of course and then just lifted into place as and when required. There have been many discussions across the world around the issues of glass dust and some countries have gone away from wearing them though in my opinion we should err on the side of caution until otherwise proved. In RBFRS we use the Sundstrom SR100 with a P3 particle filter and we actually ensure we undertake a quality test with our crews.
There a number of boots on the market for the rescuer and general Firefighting but I have recently come across these from HAIX with their latest creation, the Fire Eagle which has been developed for rescuers. It is a sleek and sporty functional boot, lightweight and flexible and equipped with all relevant safety features.
The most distinguishing feature of this boot is the two- colour toe-cap featuring signal yellow contour ripples. The two-colour design continues along the sole and aims at just one thing- maximum safety for firefighters during rescue work.
This boot has greater comfort and combines flexibility, minimum weight and protection features, the sole, toe cap and all other features of the boot have been adapted accordingly. The sole is exceptionally durable featuring fins combined with special grip elements and anti slip properties on wet ground and ice, mainly due to the two-compartment profile design.
The slight inclines in the toe and the heel area ensure smooth rolling over, while the movement sections are individually padded. These features provide the excellent comfort that is typically associated with sports shoes.
The Crosstech membrane technology from Gore® is breathable while keeping feet dry and protecting wearers against blood and other body fluids. Thanks to the optimised two-zone lacing system, it takes less than ten seconds to put on and lace up the boot, perfect for the emergency situation firefighters will be in when they have to wear the boot.
Although not worn by rescuers, there are a few items of kit that must be used to improve patient comfort and safety. In my opinion, the patient sheet is a big deal and it should go over the patient as soon as is practically possible before work starts. In RBFRS we use one which has a clear vision panel in which will assist the patients welfare and also so that the rescuers can see them. We should also use Packexe to carry out glass management and I have discussed these techniques in previous articles. Finally as you cut you must provide sharps protection to protect everyone involved in the area and in RBFRS we use Speedings on all our appliances.
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