Firefighters at a UK fire and rescue service have become the first to successfully introduce new kit as part of an industry-leading procurement programme. The introduction of new garments comes at a busy time for the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service. At the end of March, the county’s Fire and Police services took up residence in shared headquarters in Nettleham. As part of the county’s Blue Light Collaboration programme, the new shared HQ will foster greater collaboration between the respective services.
Lincolnshire are the first fire service to roll out new kit as part of the Central PPE and Clothing Contract (CPCC).
The CPCC replaced the previous programme, Integrated Clothing Project (ICP), and aims to ensure firefighters are able to take advantage of best-in-class products and services.
Lincolnshire Fire service is an impressive and slightly unusual operation compared to other services across the UK. There are 38 fire stations, of which 29 are solely retained, housing approximately 750 firefighters.
Ensuring their firefighters, both full-time and retained, are able to access the very best protective garments is taken very seriously by management.
The service typically works on an eight-year life cycle for renewing its kit and it was becoming apparent that repair costs were getting ever more expensive.
The procurement team at Lincolnshire, led by Contracts Manager Julia Skinner, were therefore able to use the CPCC’s Technical Refresh programme to justify the investment in its new kit.
Bristol Uniforms has the responsibility for supplying the wide range of PPE and non-PPE clothing for the CPCC.
Together with its partner, Hainsworth Technology, it rolled out 1,800 sets of garments which use a TITAN 1260 outer fabric, which is woven in a combination of DuPont™ Nomex®, DuPont™ Kevlar® and PBI fibres in a natural black gold colour, and incorporate a Gore CROSSTECH® Fire Blocker moisture barrier with a Hainsworth ECO-DRY Active lining.
Lincolnshire have taken the kit as part of Bristol’s Managed Services programme which enables the service to depend on the manufacturer to provide lifetime garment care rather than taking responsibility for this in-house. The service receives the additional benefit of being able to continually tap into Bristol and Hainsworth’s technical expertise to ensure the original performance specifications are maintained throughout the lifetime of the product.
Julia said: “The process of moving to the new kit was very smooth. We were already with Bristol which made it easier, but we were keen to ensure that the garments were introduced as quickly as possible, within a three to four week period, to ensure that all our fire crews were dressed the same.”
Julia added: “The response in the three months since the new kit was introduced has been excellent. They seem to be very happy. Firefighters will always tell you if there is a problem!”
Before the new kit was rolled out, it went through rigorous testing under the guidance of Shane Redhead, the service’s Operational Support Technician and Retained Crew Manager.
Shane said: “The new garments needed to be tested in many different ways in recognition of the different jobs undertaken by firefighters. We tested to see how well it would repel heat and keep us safe. We tested for sweating and to see how wet the undergarments became. We conducted tests in confined spaces and larger containers. The new kit did exactly what we were told it would do.
“The kit is a significant improvement on our previous garments. They are lighter, more comfortable and the fit is a lot better. The clothing is repelling water more effectively with the added benefit of the Hainsworth Technology ECO-DRY Active lining that successfully pulls the moisture away.
“With our previous kit, abrasion was an issue but with TITAN 1260 there is greater durability which, in turn, will mean lower repair costs.”
The feedback from Lincolnshire firefighters on the frontline has been equally favourable.
Training at Lincolnshire’s impressive Waddington Training Facility, which is used by fire services from around the UK, Crew Manager Bill Dziadkiewicz explained what his colleagues expect from their kit.
He said: “It needs to be a suitable fit for all genders and body types. We want to take for granted that the kit is of the highest standard and is serviced, maintained and uncontaminated.
“We also need to know that it is thermally regulated to suit the variety of conditions we encounter in our jobs in winter and in summer. It also needs to be as conspicuous as possible, particularly when we are attending road traffic incidents on some of the busiest roads in the county.”
Bob Over, a fellow Crew Manager based at Lincoln South, the service’s only 24-hour shift station, commented: “The new garments definitely feel lighter. The jackets are better fitted and give us greater movement and flexibility.
“The ECO-DRY Active lining is a fantastic innovation to the garment, helping to control sweating and take up moisture before the garment starts to feel wet.
“The early indications are that the new kit keeps us cooler when working for long periods of time at high intensity. During the course of a year, we will face a wide range of incidents, from road traffic collisions to wildfires during the summer months.”
Stuart Allen, Export Sales Executive for Hainsworth Technology, said: “We are delighted with the feedback from Lincolnshire and that crews are already seeing the many benefits of the Technical Refresh programme.
“We are continually looking to innovate and develop our TITAN and ECO-DRY products to ensure that they are not only best in class but, even more importantly, meet the requirements of firefighters on the frontline whatever the scenario they face.
“The strong partnership we have with Bristol Uniforms means that fire services like Lincolnshire are able to make a smooth transition to their new kit. They were the first county-wide service to procure under the CPCC.”
Philip Tasker, UK Sales Director for Bristol Uniforms, said: “Fire services procuring under the CPCC have the guarantee that all garments have been thoroughly and independently tested from both a technical and wearer perspective.
“Lincolnshire and other fire services are telling us that the CPCC not only provides them with the best possible products, but also a cost-effective solution.”
In addition to TITAN 1260, the CPCC PPE range also includes Hainsworth Technology’s wildland garment – a single layer garment using ECO-DRY Shield fabric specially designed for firefighters faced with tackling scrub, woodland and heathland wildfires.