This Fourth, Spark Joy, Not Fires!
By Alexandra Serban
July 03, 2019
Happy 4th of July! It’s time to light up the sky and start the barbeque, right? Not to spoil all the fun, but did you know fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year?*
In fact, more fires are reported on July 4th than any other day of the year.
In 2018, fireworks were involved in an estimated 9,100 injuries treated in US hospital emergency departments, according to the 2018 Fireworks Annual Report. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 36% of the estimated injuries.
Tis’ the season for… 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit
Most of these incidents are caused by illegal consumer fireworks or misuse of sparkling devices, despite firework safety warnings imposed by regulations. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission mandates that consumer fireworks have warning labels describing the associated hazard and function of a device. And they must meet strict performance requirements.
Did you know rockets must have straight, rigid sticks which remain securely attached? More information on safety regulation for fireworks, here.
Yet illegal sky rockets, aerial shells or firecrackers are not the only summer fire safety hazards. In North America, the fire season typically starts in June, as climatic factors such as dry summer air and warm temperatures increase the potential for fire outbreaks.
First responders face ravaging wildfires and large quantities of smoke generated by it. In 2017, 88% of wildfires were caused by humans, nifc.gov says. And in 2018, there were 25 firefighter deaths at fires, 10 of them on wildland fires, according to the NFPA.
As a result, California is working on introducing a new bill that would require employers to provide respirators to outdoor workers, to protect against smoke generated by burning vegetation. And OSHA could impose local air quality measurements. Campfires and forgotten debris are another quite common sources of seasonal fires.
With a busy season ahead, firefighters need fire-resistant clothing that stands the test of trials and turbulence. But they are not the only ones – any employee working with heat, fire or electrical injuries should be wearing FR clothing.
What is firefighter gear made of?
Flame-resistant clothing refers to clothing that is specifically manufactured to protect wearers from intermittent flames and thermal exposure.
The National Fire Protection Association defines flame resistant (FR) as “the property of a material whereby combustion is prevented, terminated, or inhibited following the application of a flaming or non-flaming source of ignition.”
The material doesn’t absorb a lot of heat and doesn’t support combustion. Fire-retardant fabric has undergone chemical treatment to become self-extinguishing and slow-burning. And this clothing has thermal protective properties that can’t be worn out or altered by a laundry cycle.
When choosing the correct FR garments, you need to look at a multitude of factors - thermal protection, static resistance, comfort, breathability, durability, stability, appearance, cost etc. Special categories of hazards, such as the presence of electric arc, also need to be considered.
If this is the case, check the Hazard Rating Category Level and ARC ratings needed for your particular job.
The NFPA has identified various FR hazardous risk category levels, which are numbered by severity from 1 to 4, based on the level of flame resistance delivered when a certain amount of heat and energy is created by an explosion or arc fault.
The Arc Rating determines the protective characteristics of the fabric for an article of clothing. The higher the Arc Rating, the higher the protection.
Overview of standards
The most common flame-resistant hazard-based rating standards are the following:
- ASTM F1506 Arc Rated Clothing Rating
- ASTM F1891 Arc Rated Rainwear or Laminated materials
- NFPA 2112 Flash Fire Rated Clothing
- ASTM F2733 Flash Fire Rated Rainwear
- NFPA 1971 Structural Firefighting Gear
- NFPA 1977 Wildland Firefighting Gear
The EN-469 standard regulates safety parameters for fire protective garments in Europe.
The turnout gear system
Firefighter clothing typically consists of three layers – the outer shell, the moisture barrier and the thermal liner. Each layer serves a different purpose.
The outer shell is the first line of defense. It’s responsible for defending the body from heat, flame, cut and abrasion. Water shedding is also important for firefighting, so this layer is treated with water-repellant finishes. Outer shells differentiate themselves by the type of fiber, the blend and the weave and selecting one depends on the unique needs of each fire department.
The moisture barrier material is a permeable film barrier laminated to a fabric substrate. It may come with a woven or non-woven substrate, that contributes to the overall thermal protective quality of the garment. The barrier layer allows perspiration vapor to escape, while blocking external liquid penetration, an important feature to prevent heat stress.
The thermal liner is the third layer and works in conjunction with the moisture barrier fabric to provide most of the thermal protective performance of any gear. In fact, it’s a major contributor to the TPP (Thermal Protective Performance) rating of any turnout system. It’s closest to the body, so it’s of critical importance in minimizing the amount of heat transferred from the firefighting environment to the body. It also speeds drying. It includes a face cloth layer quilted to a single layer of needle punched or several layers of spun laced battling.
Lastly, as great at these materials and fabrics are, they need to be worn correctly to achieve maximum protection.