|Project Title:||Improving Structural Firefighting Gear–From the Inside Out|
|Principle Investigator:||Denise Smith, Ph.D|
|Period of Performance:||03/29/2010 – 09/28/2012|
Firefighting leads to considerable thermal, cardiovascular and perceptual strain. The weight and insulating properties of present turnout gear that is designed to protect firefighters from burn injury also adds to the cardiovascular and thermal strain fire fighters experience.
The purpose of this project is to develop a novel integrated ensemble of turnout gear that reduces firefighter cardiovascular, thermal, and perceptual strain during firefighting.
This project includes a series of steps to better understand the effect of the base layer on physiological responses of performing work in firefighting turnout gear. The study seeks to optimize the base layer and station uniform into an integrated ensemble for turnout gear that lessens physiological strain while providing the same level of thermal protection.
The study uses a systems approach, drawing on the methodology employed by the United States military for developing soldier clothing ensembles. It is conducted in two phases, with this grant focusing on Phase 1, laboratory bench testing to describe the properties of promising base layers when worn in conjunction with turnout gear.
Base layers will include fire-resistant fibers that improve wicking and thermal control, and phase change materials. Phase 1 also will document the effect of different base layers on physiological strain during a carefully controlled laboratory-based study involving repeated work/rest bouts. If successful, then in Phase 2 the objective is to design a new integrated turnout ensemble that decreases weight and restrictiveness, and optimizes the breathability of the gear. This newly developed gear will be examined under rigorous laboratory testing and in a field setting.
Projected Results and Conclusions:
In Phase I, it is expected that base layers of newly developed materials/textiles can promote heat dissipation during planned cooling periods. Furthermore, it is expected that an integrated turnout ensemble that optimizes all layers of clothing worn by a firefighter will prove to be lighter and less restrictive, and will result in less physiological and perceptual strain during the same amount of work.
With this evidence fire departments across the country will be able to determine effectiveness of base layer garments. Also, the integrated ensemble for structural firefighting gear may stimulate additional ideas that will help improve firefighting gear.