Station wear serves as a work uniform that is designed to be worn under structural firefighting gear. Your work uniform is not designed to be worn in place of your PPE. Choosing the appropriate station wear is just as important as wearing the proper turnout gear. Your station wear can affect heat stress, proper fit of your PPE, and breathability. National standards suggest that flame resistant (FR) station wear be worn underneath your turnout gear. FR rated station wear, at a minimum, meets specific ignition and flame spread testing criteria to minimize the risk of firefighters receiving a burn injury.
Many departments have not adopted a policy requiring their personnel to wear FR- rated station wear, mostly due to the increased cost. It is recommended that if you chose not to wear FR rated station wear, that you avoid polyester, fabric blends, and non-FR rated synthetics, as these can greatly increase the chance of a burn injury. Materials, such as polyester, start to melt or burn at very low temperatures and can not only burn but also melt to the skin. Moisture wicking garments that are non-FR rated should also be avoided. If FR rated station wear is not an option, firefighters should wear clothing made of natural fibers such as 100% cotton. The temperature at which charring of cotton begins is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, safer than synthetic blends.
For more information you can refer to NFPA 1975: Standard on Station/Work Uniforms
Structural Fire Fighting Gear
Structural PPE, which is also know as turnout or bunker gear, is designed primarily for structural firefighting. It is not designed to be used as Proximity PPE or for Wildland PPE. Each piece of structural gear is designed to work in unison with all other components. A complete set of turnout gear includes a helmet, coat/jacket, pants, gloves, hood, boots, and SCBA. All of these components should meet the national standards for structural firefighting PPE.
Garments Are Made with a Three Layer System
PRIMARY FUNCTION: Provides tough, durable first line of defense against heat & flame and physical damage
PRIMARY FUNCTION: To keep moisture from entering the system
PRIMARY FUNCTION: Protection from thermal exposure
Proper Fit and Sizing of PPE
Be sure to be sized correctly – We recommend having a trained member of your department size each individual, using a sizing set, to insure proper fit or a representative from your gear manufacture.
Gear should work with the body, not against it. When you are being sized, move around in the gear as you would while working, which includes bending, kneeling, crawling and crossing your arms.
Coats should fit comfortably at chest, with no restriction in the shoulders. Be sure the arm length is correct for the individual fire fighter.
Trousers should fit comfortably at waist or if a low rise style, a few inches below the waist. They should be neither too long, which promotes premature wear at cuffs, nor too short, which may not provide adequate protection.
Tight clothing can create compression issues; slightly larger is better than too tight. Air is an excellent insulator without adding weight, but gear that is too tight eliminates air space.
Overlap – Be sure each firefighter has the proper overlap to insure that while moving no part of the body is exposed. National Standards establishes the minimum overlap requirements, as follows:
The minimum overlap shall be determined by measuring the garments on the wearer, without SCBA, in both of the following positions:
Position A: Standing, hands together reaching overhead as high as possible.
Position B: Standing, hands together reaching overhead, with body bent forward at a 90 degree angle, to the side (either left or right), and to the back
Pay close attention to where parts of the PPE ensemble meet and overlap
- Gloves to coat
- Hood/Coat/Face Piece
- Coat /Pants
- Helmets/Chin Straps
Selecting PPE That Meets Your Departments Needs
National standards suggest that a department must perform a thorough risk assessment including at least the following:
- Type of duties performed
- Frequency of use of ensemble elements
- Organization’s experiences
- Incident operations
- Geographic location and climate
Higher TPP (thermal protection) value means more thermal insulation but often leads to lower THL (breathability) which means lower breathability. Balance TPP and THL based on your department’s risk assessment. A national gear standard has set the minimum TPP at 35 and the minimum THL at 205. It is a constant trade off between protection and comfort when balancing these two items. It is important that you work with your gear manufacture to design the right set of PPE for your department.
What is TTP and THL??
TPP- Thermal Protective Performance relates to thermal protection
THL- Thermal Heat Loss relates to breathability
PPE Care, Repair, and Cleaning
Improper storage, care, and cleaning of gear can negatively impact its protective value. Closely follow the gear manufacturer’s recommendations to properly maintain gear. A national care and cleaning standard recommends professional cleaning and inspection at least once every 6 months. Any repairs/alterations must be made by a certified facility or a specially trained member of the department and must not reduce the garment’s performance. PPE maintenance will also extend the useful life of the garment. Take care to ensure that repairs are done by qualified personnel, using techniques approved by the garment manufacturer, following accepted practice outlined in NFPA 1851. It is recommended that structural garments must be retired and destroyed 10 years after the date of manufacture.
It is important to:
- Keep clean of all contaminants
- Do not store the gear where it is exposed to light
- Regularly inspect gear and make repairs as necessary
REPLACE WET GEAR! Wet PPE greatly increases your chance of a burn injury. This not only includes coats and pants but also hoods and gloves. SAVE YOUR SKIN!
For more information you can refer to:
NFPA 1975: Standard on Station/Work Uniforms