Firefighters are now being called out to deal with an increasing variety of risks in addition to the traditional fire fighting role that they are primarily trained for and protected against. Although these threats have always existed, they have become intensified in recent years by increased and more complex industrial activity and a changing urban landscape. This means that, aside from having to withstand the high temperatures of a fire, garments must also be designed and developed to protect the wearer from heat and flame and electric arc risk in scenarios that include road traffic accidents, industrial clean up operations and flood rescues. Firefighters are increasingly looking for garments that offer multi-function protection but that work harder and last longer and are comfortable to wear.
Whilst no PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) will ever provide complete protection against all firefighting risks, DuPont is developing ways to improve turnout gear to reflect the changing roles and demands of the modern firefighter that don’t compromise on comfort. Garment solutions are rigorously tested to ensure high standards of safety are achieved not only heat and flame and electric arc protection but also when exposed to the rigours of day-to-day wear.
As a result of growing demand for turnout gear that offers both high levels of protection and comfort for the wearer, DuPont developed a new outer shell fabric, DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP. This incorporates new patented Intelligent Flux Technology, which comprises two layers of fabric woven together, an inner layer of DuPont™ Kevlar® with an outer layer of DuPont™ Nomex®. Each has an individual thermal shrinkage pattern and reacts differently to heat flux.
DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP is not a departure from previous Nomex® solutions. It is a step up to the next generation of firefighter turnout gear for the emergency response market and builds on a history of over 40 years successfully keeping firefighters safe. DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP completes the Nomex® portfolio by offering the highest levels of comfort, flexibility, mechanical strength, heat and flame and electric arc protection.
When subjected to intense heat, the outer layer of DuPont™ Nomex® thickens instantly and creates an expanded insulation barrier, reducing heat transfer and providing the firefighter with extra seconds of safety. This is supported by an inner layer of DuPont™ Kevlar® which offers high mechanical strength. The intelligent weaving structure of DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP, with Kevlar® a key ingredient, provides high levels of comfort, breathability, flexibility and protection while optimising durability and mechanical strength. Incorporating this new technology within firefighter garments means that they can be confident they have the time to respond to an incident safely, whatever the scenario.
Kevlar® has been providing strength, durability and performance in extreme conditions for 50 years. Invented by DuPont in 1965, the use of Kevlar® technology has been extended to everything from fire fighter and industrial protective clothing to vehicles, fiber optic cables, mining belts, commercial aircraft and city roads. Kevlar® fiber is also used in many consumer products such as mobile phones, motor cycle jeans, tires, sporting apparel and equipment.
Blending DuPont™ Kevlar® fibres within firefighter garments provides features such as high mechanical strength. Inherent strength and high thermal protection are important but the Nomex® 3DP outershell fabric, reinforced by Kevlar®, offers a unique combination of tensile strength and resistance to cuts, tearing and abrasion, providing leading thermal & arc protection and smart benefits that last. Garments are long lasting, with lower repair and replacement costs. This includes wash fastness, with Nomex® 3DP able to withstand up to 50 washes without developing performance issues. For fire fighters, knowing that the fabric they are wearing will respond in a crisis to create extra safety can only be reassuring and they can rely on them to perform throughout their wear life. For purchasers, they can be safe in the knowledge that garments made with Nomex® 3DP outershell will be the smart solution with improved durability over time.
Despite significant advances in technology, heat stress remains one of the biggest risks for a firefighter. Heat stress is caused when the body’s core temperature rises as a result of being exposed to heat, in combination with physical exertion. The body’s sweat glands work to regulate core body temperature and to keep the firefighter cool. Garments with high insulating properties, such as those worn by firefighters, can prevent this cooling process as sweat is unable to evaporate and draw heat away from the body. If a firefighter’s core body temperature rises too much, this can lead to impaired judgment, mistakes and accidents. The same garment that protects firefighters must also allow for the release of heat and the new DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP fabric enables this process by providing high air permeability. The specific blend of Nomex® and Kevlar® in the DuPont™ 3DP fabric provides outstanding fire protection and breathability, allowing body heat to transfer to the ambient air more easily.
The importance of colour choice hasn’t been overlooked either. Whilst aesthetics may be considered an important element in the procurement process, colour equals visibility, safety and recognisability – a key factor in today’s multi-agency approach to dealing with modern emergency response situations. Today, Nomex® 3DP is available in a range of colours to improve firefighter visibility and safety, including dark blue, red and sand.
Achieving the optimum level of thermal & arc protection and comfort is a delicate balancing act. As mentioned earlier, the multi-faceted nature of a firefighter’s role means that protection against a wide range of potential scenarios is needed. However, it is unrealistic for fire and rescue services to procure a specific, tailored item of PPE for their firefighters to wear in each scenario they may face. Ultimately, this means that a garment is required to protect against the worst case scenario in order to provide the reassurance of adequate protection.
DuPont™ Nomex® 3DP fabric, with Kevlar® a key ingredient, is an important advancement in fabric technology, providing high mechanical strength and three-dimensional protection, giving extra seconds wearer safety at the same time as optimising comfort, durability with longer wear-life and lower repair and replacement costs.