Firefighter PPE standards: Their responsible development. - Academy Buzz (2022)

27th January 2016

Firefighter PPE standards: Their responsible development. - Academy Buzz (1)

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Firefighter PPE

Many who take an interest in Firefighter PPE and health and safety standards created by NFPA either genuinely appreciate their existence or at least have strong opinions one way or another.Some only care that there is a standard that can be cited when they buy personal protective equipment. Others feel that the process is nothing more than a forum for manufacturers to create new requirements to fuel increased sales.Whatever your disposition, we believe they fill an important need for balance in the industry and, most importantly, establish a minimum framework for firefighter and emergency responder health and safety.
It is true that standards often become the battleground for debates about the state of the industry and as means for introducing change. For example, consider self-contained breathing apparatus where the very first standard adopted in 1981 (the same as the number of the standard, NFPA 1981) simply indicated that SCBA should be NIOSH-certified, positive pressure and offer a minimum 30-minute service life.
That first edition was on the order of a couple of pages. NFPA 1981 is now 67 pages describing highly sophisticated requirements and test method.
Over the past multiple editions, the requirements have evolved to include a number of fire service oriented tests beginning with increased ruggedness, a full system heat and flame evaluation, assessment of communications, the introduction of heads up displays, universal air connections, and chemical and biological protection.Most recently changes were made to standard for improving the survivability of facepiece materials when exposed to radiant heat. What is interesting to follow in the course for this standard’s history is the manner in which these changes were implemented.

Committees at work

NFPA is an open forum; anything it does should be open to the public. While the public does approach NFPA from time to time, the majority of standards development activity takes place wholly within the committees responsible for individual standards.
Committees attempt to act on the best interests of the fire and emergency services. But deciding which changes to consider and, more importantly, how and when to add requirements that can have a substantial impact on your health and safety is no easy matter.
While there can be no price for an individual’s safety and life, most changes in firefighter PPE come at a large expense to the industry. So, choices for introducing new methods and criteria that raise the bar have to be judiciously examined.
Despite their best intentions, some committees have introduced requirements that are either not ready or not completely thought out. Generally, changes are made to a standard to reflect improvements in technology or in the better understanding of how that technology works to provide protection.
It’s often debated whether a changed test method will achieve a product improvement. For example, despite the inclusion of many new methods for testing firefighter gloves, all aimed at improved hand function, the reality is that most gloves offer the same overall dexterity — primarily because trade offs for thermal protection are difficult to meet.
Regardless of whether the requirement works on not, the impact of a test can be additional cost for the product’s evaluation that often translated to more expensive products. Therefore, it is important to get it right before making the change.
Within the structure of NFPA there is a correlating committee for Firefighter PPE that oversees the activity of all of the individual technical committees that write standards on different items of Firefighter PPE. Its principal function is to ensure that Firefighter PPE standards are prepared with consistent requirements, although it does not replace the technical committee deliberation on specific technical matters.
In the area of new test methods and criteria, it has instituted guidelines to validate new or significantly revised test method and criteria that include a relatively robust series of six steps intended to ensure that changes are carried out responsibly.
Step 1: Provide rationale
The submitter must provide a rationale with supporting evidence that substantiates the need for establishing new or revising test methods or criteria. This covers field relevance, fire service needs, safety concerns, recognition of new product technology, accounting for advances in testing technology, or accomplishing other clearly stated objectives.
Examples of supporting evidence can include the documentation of specific safety issues identified by end user or other groups. This may include statistics on the number of incidents or highlight specific cases where the issues have arisen.
Other forms of supporting evidence can include aspects of existing requirements that unduly prevent proper testing or consideration of new product technologies because the existing test methods or criteria are found to be design-restrictive. Or, it may include information that shows that new test methods provide more reliable or relevant forms of evaluation. Scientific papers, test data or statistics provide a more robust justification for supporting evidence.

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Step 2: Conduct assessment
The submitter must conduct an assessment to determine the potential impact of the new or significantly revised test methods or criteria on products that have already been certified or fielded.
The nature of this requirement is to have the technical committee assess what the anticipated impact of the new or modified requirements are relative to specific products.This is not intended to identify specific products that might be excluded by a new or modified requirement. Rather, it requires the submitter provide an analysis for the types of products that might be affected, with an indication as to why the affected products do not provide adequate performance.

Step 3: Establish repeatable test
They also must establish intra-laboratory repeatability and inter-laboratory reproducibility for new or significantly revised test methods. Where possible, test methods shall include procedures for their calibration.
The principal certification organizations and their laboratories shall formally affirm to the technical committee that the tests can be conducted reliably as proposed at least by the time of the second draft.
This information is important for establishing the reliability of the test method and should, at a minimum, include those laboratories that provide certification services for the relevant product standard. This information may also be useful in setting specific criteria to account for expected test method variability.

Step 4: Show relevance
It is also required to establish the relevance of test methods and any associated criteria by showing how proposed or significantly revised test methods identify meaningful differences in product performance consistent with field performance.
One approach is to identify product types that are considered unsuitable based on end user field experience and evaluate those products alongside others to determine if the test method identifies meaningful differences in performance consistent with observed field performance.
Another approach is to demonstrate the impact and relevance of test results for products through carefully designed experiments carried out in the field. Lastly, an additional approach is to relate proposed criteria to specific safety levels that can be documented through scientific or other reasonably based field investigative work.

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Step 5: Provide data
It is necessary to provide test data and any supporting documentation to the members of the respective technical committee, the correlating committee or individuals who may request this information.
Supporting documentation includes, but is not limited to, proposed new or modified methodology/criteria with justification statements, supporting evidence, test data, references to published papers or statistics, inter-laboratory test results and other information. The committees should maintain this as part of meeting minutes or make it available elsewhere on the NFPA technical committee website page.

Step 6: Provide visuals
Visual illustrations of the proposed test equipment and test materials help committee members and others better understand the proposed new or modified test. Those visual materials can be illustrations, videos or photographs.
Some may deem this long list excessive. But everything being requested is consistent with the import for how a significant change can affect firefighter health or safety or influence the type of Firefighter PPE products they are provided.
Instead, we think this list is rather intuitive and in many cases, these steps are already followed.
However, when they are not followed and new methods or criteria are prematurely introduced or not properly justified, they can have enormous consequences. At least with an articulated process, there can be responsible standards development.

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What PPE does a firefighter need? ›

PPE is designed to protect firefighters from serious injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with fire, CBRNE hazards and more. It covers a variety of devices and garments, such as respirators, turnout gear, gloves, blankets and gas masks.

Which NFPA Standard establishes the inspection period for protective breathing apparatus? ›

NFPA 1852: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

What are the three basic fireground objectives? ›

During a typical house fire, you will stabilize the incident by completing the tactical objectives: Confine. Ventilate. Extinguish.

Why is firefighter PPE important? ›

PPE for firefighters is extremely important so they can enter a house or building without suffering from burns or lung damage from smoke inhalation. Even in situations where these heroes have to engage in size-up or overhaul, wearing of PPE is also required so they won't get seriously injured while doing their job.

Why do we need to use PPE during fire fighting operation? ›

These items of firefighters' protective system have been designed to provide protection against multiple hazards such as thermal threats (e.g. exposure to flame and excessive heat), toxic gas inhalation, and physical injuries (e.g. cuts, collisions, punctures, slips, falls etc.).

What is the NFPA Standard for PPE? ›

NFPA 1971 protects fire fighting personnel by establishing minimum levels of protection from thermal, physical, environmental, and bloodborne pathogen hazards encountered during structural and proximity fire fighting operations.

Why must PPE be cleaned and inspected after each use? ›

PPE intended to protect workers from exposure to toxic substances or harmful physical agents should be inspected before each use for damage that could compromise safety.

What four types of cleaning for PPE is defined by NFPA 1851? ›

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear. Standard on protective ensembles for first responders to CBRN terrorism incidents.

What is the #1 priority during a fire? ›

The number one priority on any fire scene is life safety. Firefighters constantly train in order to prepare themselves to rescue trapped occupants in a burning building.

What are the 3 priorities of firefighting? ›

Let's review the three main fireground priorities: life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation. Every fire scene we respond to requires these three priorities to be addressed. The order in which they are addressed will be dictated by the situation.

What are the 3 incident priorities on a fire incident scene? ›


The incident priorities for any emergency are life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation. Initial tactical decisions made in the first five to ten minutes will dictate the direction of the remainder of the incident.

What are the 7 sides of a fire? ›

Command must consider the seven sides (or sectors) of the fire: front, rear, both sides, top, bottom, and interior. Fires cannot be considered under control until all seven sides are addressed. Failure to address all seven sides will frequently result in fire extension.

What is the 3 main ways of communicating at work? ›

There are four main types of workplace communication: verbal, body, phone and written. During any point in the workday, you are always faced with at least one. Understanding how to communicate within these fields can be one of the most delicate skills an employee can learn.

What are the 3 types of communication skills? ›

When communication occurs, it typically happens in one of three ways: verbal, nonverbal and visual. People very often take communication for granted.
3 Main Types of Communication
  • Verbal Communication. ...
  • Nonverbal Cues Speak Volumes. ...
  • Visual Communication.
Sep 26, 2016

What is the full form of PPE in fire? ›

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, electrical, heat, chemicals, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter.

How can wearing PPE affect a firefighter situational awareness? ›

Smart PPE improves situational awareness as it collects data, sends notifications, and adjusts to internal and external conditions. It benefits frontline personnel by tracking their location and health condition and dispatching the data to authorized officials.

What is PPE and SCBA how do they affect physical performance among firefighters? ›

Wearing firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) along with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) provides an effective barrier of protection against hazardous materials, but the heavy weight and increased thermal insulation from PPE and SCBA result in the premature onset of muscle fatigue and impaired ...

Which is a main goal of a firefighter? ›

Preventing, combating and extinguishing fires with the goal of protecting lives, the environment and property. Operating tools and equipment used for firefighting safely and effectively. Providing appropriate medical care within their scope of knowledge in emergency situations.

What should firefighters avoid wearing while on duty? ›

CAUTION: Do not wear clothing made of non-fire-resistant synthetic materials under PPE. All station and work uniforms should meet NFPA 1975 requirements.

What masks do firefighters use? ›

The Dräger X-plore 3500 half-face mask with a P100 filter protects the airway of a firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder from 99.97% of fire ground particulates.

What are the 3 layers of the PPE according to NFPA 1971? ›

NFPA 1971 also requires numerous reflective markers on both the coat and pants so that the firefighter can be more easily seen in the dark.
Both structural firefighting PPE elements consist of three layers:
  • Outer shell.
  • Moisture barrier.
  • Thermal barrier.
Feb 3, 2022

Which NFPA standard defines safe training practices and programs? ›

NFPA 1500 specifies the minimum requirements for an occupational safety and health program for fire departments or organizations that provide rescue, fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials mitigation, special operations, and other emergency services.

How often should firefighter PPE be inspected? ›

The requirements demonstrate that organization procedures reduce the amounts of contaminants in turnout gear. This testing has to be carried out one year after the effective date of the standard, then every 2 years afterward.

What is the importance of wearing PPE? ›

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as "PPE", is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards.

Who is responsible for training workers on the use of PPE? ›

In general, your employer is responsible for: Continually working to identify and control hazards. Providing appropriate PPE for employees. Training employees in the use and care of the PPE.

Who is responsible for adequate PPE? ›

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace to protect all workers, including providing and maintaining PPE. Make it a habit to wear your PPE, and ensure the workers you supervise wear theirs.

How long do fire helmets last? ›

How Long is a Firefighter Helmet Good For? Firefighter helmets have a 10-year service life from the manufacturing date. They are required to get pulled out by the time they reach that lifespan, even if they're still in good condition. This requirement is part of the NFPA standards.

How do you clean fire turnout gear? ›

Use warm water and a normal cycle; water temperature should not exceed 105°F. Following each complete wash cycle, thoroughly rinse your garments. Liners should be turned inside out, while DRDs should be laundered in a mesh bag; every separable component should be laundered separately.

How often must SCBA face pieces be fit tested? ›

(b) Only firefighters with a properly fitting facepiece must be permitted by the fire department to function in a hazardous atmosphere with SCBA. (c) Fit testing must be repeated: (i) At least once every twelve months. (ii) Whenever there are changes in the type of SCBA or facepiece used.

What makes a great firefighter? ›

Clear, intelligent, courteous and open communication is essential within the firehouse, on the fire ground and when interacting with the public. You will need to know how to be an active listener, just like they teach in couple's therapy and live with, work with and get along with a multitude of personality types.

What is a priority 2 fire alarm? ›

Page 1. FIRE AND LIFE SAFETY. SAFETY INSPECTION CHECKLIST. Priority 1 Any condition which is life-threatening, or may cause injury, or permanent disability. Priority 2 Any condition which may cause serious, but non-disabling injury.

What does Slicers stand for? ›

It stands for Size-up, Locate the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish, Rescue and Salvage at any time in the process.

What are some examples of firefighting priorities? ›

Each of these tactics can be delivered singularly or at the same time as others based on resource availability and priority of completion to mitigate fireground impacts.
  • Need for rescue. Rescuing civilians is our main purpose. ...
  • Protection of an exposure. ...
  • Confinement of fire. ...
  • Extinguishment. ...
  • Overhaul. ...
  • Ventilation. ...
  • Salvage.
Aug 21, 2008

What would be the first step when a first responder arrives on the scene of a chemical spill? ›

Communicate the hazard

Immediately notify others working in the area and any supervisory personnel of the hazard, and if the situation warrants it, evacuate the area. If needed, call 911 or follow the established emergency procedures to call for help.

What is a tactical priority? ›

The tactical priorities, (rescue, fire control, property conservation) are clear, measurable, and obtainable objectives. These objectives are considered complete when the benchmarks are declared.

What is fire incident command? ›

The purpose of the Incident Command System (ICS) is to provide for a systematic development of a complete, functional command organization designed to allow for single or multi-agency use, which increases the effectiveness of command and firefighter safety.

What is a working structure fire? ›

A working structure. fire was defined as any call where responders took at least 10 minutes without. cancellation of units (from first unit arrival) and where the time on task was at least. 30 minutes. The primary outcome measure was the number of working structure.

What is the typical span of control for a fire incident? ›

Span of control refers to the number of individuals or resources that one supervisor can manage effectively during an incident. The optimal span of control is one supervisor to five subordinates (1:5). However, effective incident management may require ratios significantly different from this.

What should firefighters avoid wearing while on duty? ›

CAUTION: Do not wear clothing made of non-fire-resistant synthetic materials under PPE. All station and work uniforms should meet NFPA 1975 requirements.

How can wearing PPE affect a firefighter situational awareness? ›

Smart PPE improves situational awareness as it collects data, sends notifications, and adjusts to internal and external conditions. It benefits frontline personnel by tracking their location and health condition and dispatching the data to authorized officials.

Why do firefighters wear gloves? ›

Firefighters wear thick, leather gloves to protect their hands from burns, cuts and scratches.

Why is it important to wear all of your PPE for a specific fire structure wildland Arff etc every time? ›

What is it important to wear all your PPE for a specific fire (structure, wildland, ARFF, etc) every time? The layering of protection provides a greater margin of safety to protect firefighters in various types of dangers environments.

What is a fireman's AXE called? ›

Wikipedia. The Pulaski was created in the years just following the 1910 Big Burn by U.S. Forest Service Ranger Ed Pulaski, and it continues to be used by wildland firefighters to this day. The tool is a combination of a fire axe and an adze (or hoe), allowing firefighters to chop or dig with the flip of a wrist.

What is a safety consideration for PPE? ›

PPE includes safety gloves and should be used for tasks that can cause hand and skin burns, absorption of harmful substances, cuts, fractures or amputations. Safety Tips: Ensure hand protection fits perfectly with no spaces and is free from cuts, burns and chemical residue.

Why must PPE be cleaned and inspected after each use? ›

PPE intended to protect workers from exposure to toxic substances or harmful physical agents should be inspected before each use for damage that could compromise safety.

What is the main purpose of written regulations such as policies and procedures within a fire and emergency services organization? ›

Fire department SOPs help increase firefighter safety, minimizing unnecessary risks and helping prepare firefighters for emergency situations. Fire department policies and procedures include proactive safety measures, such as pre-planning and health and fitness requirements.

Why is situational awareness important? ›

Why is situational awareness important to you? Situational awareness is important to everyone – it is important that everyone is aware of their surroundings and the potential hazards they face. It is important that each individual is looking out for his or her own safety as well as looking out for their workmates.

What is the situational awareness in firefighting? ›

Situational awareness represents the perception and understanding an incident commander has of an incident, including its hazards, risks and operational activities. It also consists of how a commander anticipates the incident will develop taking into account their actions.

What is a firefighter uniform called? ›

Bunker gear or turnout gear is the term used by many fire departments to refer to the protective clothing worn by firefighters. The name “bunker gear” was derived from the fact that the pants and boots were traditionally kept by the firefighter's bunk at the fire station and ready for use.

What is a fireman mask called? ›

Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, also known as SCBA, is a necessary protective gear that is worn by paramedics, firemen, and people working on ships and oil rigs.

What masks do firefighters use? ›

The Dräger X-plore 3500 half-face mask with a P100 filter protects the airway of a firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder from 99.97% of fire ground particulates.

Why don t wildland firefighters wear masks? ›

Wildland firefighters working on a vegetation fire can't wear the conventional self contained breathing apparatus used by structural firefighters. It is too bulky, heavy, and only lasts 10 to 30 minutes.

What did firefighters wear in the past? ›

Wool, a heavy material that gave some protection against hot and cold environments, was used. Firefighters' pants and a long trench coat with a stiff collar were made of wool. Under the coat, firefighters wore a cotton or wool shirt that was usually red in color. To finish off the uniform, they wore leather boots.

Do wildland firefighters wear oxygen masks? ›

It is an air mask for an SCBA-self contained breathing apparatus— wearing a tank full of oxygen into a fire would be dangerous.. Secondly only structural firefighters wear them. Wildland firefighters do not as they are unneeded and prohibitive by weight.


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