The GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch fabric pushes the envelope for high performance rescue garments, combining several of Gore’s proven world leading technologies in a bespoke rescue application. This achieves unprecedented freedom of movement and mobility, while also protecting from the many risks encountered at rescue incidents.

The nature and complexity of technical rescue varies significantly and the working environment of a rescue incident such as a road traffic accident, water or animal rescue is completely different from a fire. These incidents now account for more than 80 per cent of callouts for fire and rescue services across Europe. While this trend continues to increase, in most cases firefighters respond to them wearing full structural firefighting gear, which is not as ideally suited for the task at hand. Structural fire gear is more insulated and robust that over protects for technical rescue situations and does not offer as much freedom of movement required for rescue work.

Many services provide lighter weight specialised suits for their technical rescue teams, but they do not protect from any additional risks such as fire, chemicals and blood borne or viral pathogens and often pick up rain and moisture, becoming cold and uncomfortable.

Up until now, protecting firefighters at rescue incidents has always involved compromise – either they work in their structural fire gear that offers barrier protection against liquid but are insulated, or they operate in lightweight suits that do not protect from all the risks and quickly become very uncomfortable in poor weather.

Firefighters need the confidence that their clothing will protect them from all the risks that they face at a rescue incident. GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch product technology is designed specifically to meet their needs, protecting from pathogens found in blood and body fluid as well as common chemicals such as petrol, battery acid and hydraulic fluid. The fabric is inherently flame retardant, protecting the wearer from incidental flame and flash fire.

The GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch fabric is incredibly light and stretches four ways to achieve the exceptional freedom of movement required for working in confined spaces and unusual situations. The fabric moves with the wearer like a high-performance sports garment and the elasticity delivers optimum fit, expanding and contracting with any layers worn underneath. The improved fit enhances breathability as sweat evaporates through the garment more efficiently when the fabric is closer to the skin.

Rescue teams no longer have to endure becoming wet and cold in bad weather at protracted incidents. The new specialised fabric is waterproof and resistant to water pickup so that it does not become heavy when wet and dries quickly. High breathability ensures that the wearer stays dry and comfortable on the inside in hot weather.

Suzanne Prince, Associate at GORE-TEX Professional, said: “This innovative product technology sets a new standard for personal protection for technical rescue. After detailed research, we have brought together proven Gore technologies to create a solution that delivers previously unheard of performance and comfort. Rescue teams often work for long hours at incidents and in all weathers. They need high levels of comfort and mobility that will also protect from the threat posed by blood borne pathogens, chemicals and flash fire. The new fabric eliminates the traditional compromise between comfort and protection for rescue work, delivering a specialised solution that is more advanced than any alternative.”

In independent ISO 13506 burn tests on a thermal manikin, the test garment with GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch did not melt, drip or break open, and no significant burns were predicted.

GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch maintains its performance standards throughout the operational lifetime of the garment. The fabric has been tested to withstand over 50 industrial washes using ISO 15797 table1 method.

Garments with GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch laminate are compliant with EN ISO 20471 high visibility requirements for professional use. The unique PYRAD® technology allows for a range of hi-visibility colours such as red, orange, and yellow as well as wider range to match specific requirements of fire and rescue services.

As part of an extensive programme of research and wearer trials, GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch garments have been tested by technical rescue teams around Europe, including Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. As soon as they picked the garments up, firefighters commented on how light they were. They said that the gear felt more like sport or leisure wear and really appreciated the freedom of movement and comfort. Those that tried the clothing in the rain were surprised at how easily the water ran off the fabric and were dry throughout the day. Firefighters present at fire testing were surprised by the fire-resistant performance in such a lightweight garment. Many were reluctant to give the test samples back.

GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PYRAD® stretch fabric for technical rescue work has a longer than average lifespan while still made to withstand operational rigours, frequent decontamination and more than 50 industrial washes using ISO 15797 table1 method. The flame and pathogen protection does not degrade over time and the seams and fabric will remain intact after washing to ensure performance throughout the lifetime of the garment. The longer operational lifespan reduces the number of replacements required, which in turn lowers environmental impact.

By keeping products in use for longer, their overall lifecycle impact is reduced. Because most of the resources and energy are consumed during the production and distribution processes, garments with a longer product life significantly reduce use of these resources. This improves sustainability of the product. This improves sustainability of the product.

This is in line with the globally standardised (ISO 14040-14044) Life Cycle Assessment approach used to measure and understand the environmental impacts of GORE-TEX products.

For further information contact Suzanne Prince, or visit

Future proofing: Why iTrackPPE could be the panacea the Fire Service needs

Technology Correspondent Andrew Chilvers talks to former fire officer Steve McLinden about a stunningly simple proposition – ensuring every fire and rescue service can account for and track all PPE assets in real time

During his time serving in Mid and West Wales (MAWW), Steve created and led the service-wide digitisation project, Transformation 2020 (T20). He identified the value of drone technology and the risk and critical need to enable incident commanders to access this and other situational awareness data through innovative digital technology. The T20 programme accessed additional GovTech funding to enable them to expand their digital innovation ambitions to further enhance firefighter safety. Steve and his team were awarded £1.25m to develop the ‘holy grail’ of digital technology, instantly deployable tracking of firefighters within GPS denied environments, this being the first time a UK FRS had been awarded this level of funding.

Last year, when Steve finally retired after 34 years, instead of downing digital tools and focusing on old school retirement activities like gardening, he became a full-time entrepreneur. Building on his passion for innovation, his ambition is nothing less than the total digital transformation of PPE assets across all the UK fire and rescue services.

iTrackPPE: A Simple Business Idea

Steve’s business, iTrackPPE, is based around a stunningly simple proposition – ensuring every fire and rescue service can account for and track all PPE assets in real time. The idea is to safeguard firefighters by guaranteeing clean kit, while saving thousands of pounds and wasted time for each fire and rescue service in the bargain.

“Part of the work I did in Mid and West Wales was to look at how we could develop a solution that managed our PPE in a better and more effective way,” Steve recalls. “We came up with an intial solution, but time and other issues meant by the time I retired the product wasn’t finished and did not fully exploit the full potential of my original idea.”

Steve was so committed to creating an intelligent PPE distribution and tracking solution – which dovetails with his passion for a safer environment for all firefighters – that he did not want it to just fizzle out. Once he retired he reviewed and redesigned his original concept through wider end user research and development, engagement and process mapping to create a much more adaptable and focused platform.

Partners, Investors and Technology Expert

To get his idea off the ground Steve contacted a number of technology entrepreneurs, experts and businesses, either partnering with them or asking for help in the form of investment. Through sheer force of will it all started to fall into place – and surprisingly quickly.

To help him design the software Steve set up a business partnership with Chris Murray who runs his own company, OxonTech, and between them they built the software platform and the applications. They also designed bespoke RFID enabled storage furniture with Welsh company Ministry of Furniture, which repurposes reclaimed office furniture. Elsewhere, Torchwood Technologies provides bespoke design RFID/barcode tags and labels, while Zebra Technologies, which is the global leaders for RFID and barcode scanners, has become iTrackPPE hardware partners.

Through his network, Steve also managed to get iTrackPPE into the Microsoft start-up accelerator program, so the emerging business had critical support from Microsoft, including the use of its secure Azure platform.

Out of nowhere, Steve had brought an assortment of businesses together to help build the digital framework for iTrackPPE (he is also a partner in two other companies, Unblur and Arwain, which are part of the story, helping to enable the overall technology solution).

“With this group of companies we have all played a part in the overall strategy to engage with UK fire services to start a wider strategic debate on what the digital landscape looks like from an operational point of view,” Steve says. “For example, we were invited to the Fire Service College to do a pitch on a digital roadmap for the next 12 months.”

Lean System Thinking and Business Process Mapping

Historically, UKFRS’s are not efficient or effective at being able to account for the number, location and condition of risk critical PPE in real time. It is often difficult to know if each firefighter has the correct PPE, its condition and whether its in test: “Being really critical most UKFRS’s have a significant over-provision, under-utilisation and general lack of control over their assets.

“Everything we’re doing is about firefighters’ safety. When you look at the post incident reports for every incident, minor or big, it’s always the same issues that arise: communication, situational awareness, sharing of information, and risk critical data not being put in the right hands. Plans are often not up to date and people are saying, ‘I didn’t know’.”

Steve and his team have studied hundreds of incidents, historic and more recent, including the Grenfell Tower tragedy, 7/7 bombings, Manchester Arena and Westminster terrorist attacks and have identified a number of problems and resulting solutions. All involve problems including overall planning down to the micromanagement of clean, uncontaminated kit and its availability during a critical incident. This is where Steve believes fire service specific digital solutions will go a long way to bridge these risk critical gaps.

A huge problem on the macro and micro level is the legacy software used by the service – and the ability to adopt new technology. Steve believes there has been a traditional barrier for adopting new technology within the Fire Service mainly because the software solutions are not Fire Service specific. They have to be adapted by every individual service across the UK to fit in with their legacy and overly complex processes

Lean System Thinking

For Steve, this problem goes hand-in-hand with a lack of business process mapping and lean system thinking. Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a process should be completed, and how the success of a business process can be determined. Lean thinking, meanwhile, is a five-step thought process to guide managers through a lean transformation.

“With the roll out of generic software, for example, which is not Fire Service specific, managers seem to think that if you simply add Fire Service add-ons to it, it’ll work,” Steve says. “Non-operational software is bought that is designed to work in a certain way, but because no one ever does any proper business process mapping or lean system thinking, they end up with legacy processes within the service that have been in place for 20 years. Then they buy that new state-of-the art software and spend the next five years trying to adapt it to the existing processes .”

An added problem with this approach is it allows the software company to blame the service not the product when things go wrong.

Along with building lean system thinking and business process mapping, Steve’s iTrackPPE solution is designed for the end user; the firefighter is at the core of the overall design. To help him with this, Steve drew on yet another key contact in his business contacts address book – the former lead application and user interface designer for Dyson Ltd, who helped design the handheld application.

How iTrackPPE works

Firefighters engage with the iTrackPPE solution via an intuitive Android application on a hard-wearing, handheld barcode scanner, that is very similar in look and feel to a mobile phone. This can be integrated with a handheld RFID scanner and allows all users to easily and quickly manage their PPE.

“We provide bespoke RFID enabled storage units that can be big or small depending on the station. We can even make the storage units into furniture, like a sideboard. So if you’re stuck for space, you can have the sideboard in and still use the worktop.

“We then have the logistics app, which is for the iTrackPPE logistics team and this will be an internal team. Either they’re the existing stores team or the business case factors in the recruitment of additional staff who will run them within the overall invest to save proposal. The logistics solution incorporates the ScanBox that we have developed in partnership with Zebra. This is an RFID enabled scanning container that improves accountability and efficiency of the logistics team when managing PPE in transit or returning from the managed care provider.

Counting the Assets

Dirty or returning clean PPE are dropped into the ScanBox, which instantly scans the contents and provides a manifest of all the assets present. This provides a date and time stamped record of items that are either leaving or returning into the service, visible accountability of assets in real time. Once that dirty kit (or assets as Steve calls them) is taken away, the app counts down the time so when the clean kit is returned it is dropped into the box, scanned and flags up anything that is not correct. In that instance, the stores team know immediately if something that is expected back has not arrived. The system is so precise that if, say, a tunic that has not been allocated is taken out of the station storage unit an alert can be triggered to the stores staff and station manager within 30 seconds of its removal. All of this activity is available to see on the iTrackPPE performance dashboard, which is configurable by the end user.

This differs from the current programme where most managed care providers, or stores teams drive to every station usually once a week, whether they are picking up assets or not, and then they will go back to their hub with or without the assets: “What we say with iTrackPPE is that they will have a central logistics hub where all the kit for managed care goes out from that point and comes back into that point. They’ve got total control of what’s going out and what’s coming back .”

iTrackPPE is not a competitor to the managed care providers but a complementor which supports the FRS to accurately track and manage their PPE within service. This also delivers significant financial and sustainability savings through reducing managed care costs and unnecessary journeys.

Another area that Steve is passionate about is contaminants; how to ensure a fire service has safe decontaminated PPE at all times: “If you have to wash your kit after every fire or contaminant incident, how do you make sure you don’t run out of kit? With the current personal issue system, if you have more than two fires within one shift, you haven’t got any kit left, you have to go and access strategic loan stock or get an emergency issue from stores or the managed care provider.”

The iTrackPPE Modelling System

iTrackPPE’s unique proposition is the way it enables the FRS to intelligently distribute, track and manage its risk critical PPE. Legacy solutions based on personal issue, where the PPE belongs to the firefighter and can’t be used by anyone else, is inefficient and expensive: “Effectively 50 per cent of all PPE is not available to anyone else at any time plus firefighters only have access to a very limited number of spare assets that fit them. Adopting iTrackPPE resolves a lot of legacy issues and frustrations in the management of PPE. Firstly, all firefighters will have a dedicated set of PPE for their exclusive use while it is allocated to them. But they will also have access to every single piece of PPE of their size, which is not allocated to another firefighter or within the wash/repair process. Our solution also removes the uneven wear and overprovision of kit in low activity areas therefore siginificatly improving the ‘return on investment for each asset.”

iTrackPPE’s intelligent distribution computer model enables FRS’s to place their PPE assets where they are needed based on risk, activity and size profile of firefighters. It allows them to confidently move away from personal issue to a pooled size issue model. This approach removes overprovision, under utilisation and uneven wear and asset replacement across the service.

Steve estimates as an example, on a two pump, one special station with 56 firefighters, a saving of up to £25k can be made by reducing the number of assets allocated to that station from 448 to 270 items. With the average UK FRS having 20 plus stations this equates to a saving of about £500,000 (see graphic below).

A future challenge all UK FRS’s will have to navigate is the ongoing research and links to high levels of cancers due to exposure to a firefighters’ contaminated PPE. This was one of the drivers that led Steve to look at how organisations manage PPE. The potential solution for many organisations will be to issue a third set of kit. For example, an organisation with 1,000 firefighters would procure an additional 2,000 assets plus a 20 per cent spare provision, equating to 2,400 assets. The problem with this solution is that it does not solve the problem if a station has more than three fires in a shift, as those firefighters will run out of kit; plus the FRS will also need to find about £700,000 to fund the procurement (see graphic below). This could potentially bring the FRS’s PPE asset holding up to 12,000 items.

iTrackPPE, however, through its intelligent computer modelled distribution, predicts the total asset profile would be closer to 6,000 assets, a reduction/saving of 6,000 assets that equates to some £1.8 million.

Another calculation Steve’s academic partners at Cardiff University carried out with the personal issue approach was that once every 35 weeks there is a probability that firefighters will run out of their own kit and will have to get more from somewhere else. With the iTrackPPE solution, academic validation predicts it is greater than once every 284 weeks as all the assets are pooled rather than stuffed into individual’s lockers. This then guarantees the availability of kit for everyone, clean from contaminants: “So if you think about it, with the existing personal issue approach two thirds of assets wouldn’t be available to anybody else because they’re in individuals’ lockers. That’s now freed up. So our validated academic studies predict you can significantly reduce the number of PPE assets within the organisation should the contamination legislation be introduced and when you do the availability of PPE is eight times more resilient than your current provision.”

Extending the Life of the Kit

This also has the benefit of extending the life of the kit. According to Steve, manufacturers recommend that, say, after 20 washes the kit needs to be inspected as it may be near its end of life. But in a busy station this may be only eight washes until its worn or damaged beyond repair, which brings the average wash rate or use rate down: “So, say, a brigade bought brand new kit two years ago, we can go in and asset mark that kit with our RFID and barcode code tags, apply the distribution model and then all this surplus kit, which they’ve got, we can then put into the transit stock. So even if they’ve spent the money, then over the next five, six, seven years, instead of paying out, the average is about £175,000 a year on PPE, on revenue costs, they will be paying out next to nothing because they’ve got the surplus stock.”

As well as the surplus stock, Steve says iTrackPPE will also audit the life of the kit. It can track the location and condition of all the assets. With a busy station, for example, the kit is being worn out at a high rate, while at the quieter stations that is not the case: “By using iTrackPPE, the system will automatically have predetermined if certain stations will only have condition one kit, as in low wear kit, other stations will have condition two, maybe condition three kit. So when the life of the kit comes back in, it’s gone from condition one to condition two. That kit will never go back to the stations that are busy, so the chances of it being worn out or damaged to a point where it isn’t usable are far less. What you end up with after three years is a wear profile that shows kits with a lot less damage overall and more costs savings.”

Severe Cuts in the Future

Talking to Steve, the implementation of iTrackPPE is clearly a no brainer, particularly when the fire services has been hit by so much cost cutting during the past few years. Steve, as with so many senior fire officers, is deeply pessimistic for the future of Fire Service funding and believes it will suffer more severe cuts in the near future: “We’ve had ten years of absolute austerity and cuts. There’s no fat left. The only way they are going to make savings now is by changing crewing, closing stations.”

Regardless of this, Steve has met some resistance to the implementation of this type of solution with some former colleagues who are naturally suspicious of new technology and innovation. Nevertheless, several fire and rescue services around the UK and overseas are now expressing an interest: “We’re in discussions with several forward thinking and well respected fire services within the UK, as well as organisations in the Middle East and the US.”

For Steve the costs are all built into the overall proposition, so no fire service will be out of pocket: “If I turn around to you as a strategic manager and say I can deliver you a better way of distributing, tracking and managing your PPE, I can potentially extend its life by up to three years to six years and I can significantly reduce your year-on-year annual revenue and your future capital procurement costs for PPE, would you be interested? Hopefully, you’ll say ‘yes’, because there’s a huge chunk of money which you can then reallocate.”

Steve concludes: “At iTrackPPE we want to move away from the traditional ‘customer supplier’ relationship. Our mission is to become a trusted partner of the FRS and work with them to develop iTrackPPE to meet their emerging needs.

“We are an ambitious company that welcomes the opportunity to develop end user-led solutions and with that in mind we are already mapping out the development of additional modules for our solution to include breathing apparatus, operational equipment, personal compliance and wider organisational asset management.”

Diversity in firefighting technology

Brian Hesler, Consultant and Specialist Advisor at Draeger Safety UK and former Chief Fire Officer for the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, reports on Draeger’s developing solutions to support increased diversity and inclusivity

For many years now our industry has been working hard to investigate a lack of diversity within the fire services, and what potential solutions will attract more women, ethnic and other minority groups to the profession.

As of March 2021, women made up 7.5 per cent of the UK Fire and Rescue Service, increasing from five per cent five years before. The proportion of firefighters from ethnic minorities, meanwhile, made up 4.7 per cent of the service, compared with 3.8 per cent five years before*.

Clearly there is some considerable way to go and manufacturers have a key role to play here too. If one of the barriers is that individuals are physically, ergonomically, or perhaps even culturally challenged by the equipment they are provided with, then it is up to those manufacturers to develop solutions that will support increased diversity and inclusivity.

Barrier Considerations

It is important to note that when considering what barriers minorities might face when using medical and safety technology, that we are not only talking about attracting a diverse work force, but also addressing selection, retention, development, specialist roles and promotion.

For instance, if minority groups see the job as unattractive due to physical challenges that equipment and clothing presents, then we can develop our products to address those risks, concerns and perceptions. It is also crucial that we help FRSs to communicate those solutions – not only when portraying the image of a firefighter, but also during the initial interview and selection process, then throughout a firefighter’s full employment – where concerns and perceptions can change as people age and have families.

An added challenge is the emerging expectation that the firefighter will work longer in their career, meaning that the effects of physiological ageing will be seen to have a greater impact on all individuals in their later years as they reach retirement.

For example, there are gender-specific issues related to fertility, pregnancy and menopause, that need to be considered when attracting and encouraging women to join and stay in the firefighting profession. A diverse fire industry also needs to see PPE and face masks of breathing apparatus suited to people observing religious practices, ie the wearing of religious headwear or having facial hair.

Ergonomics, Adjustability and Intuitive Design

In firefighting, ergonomics relates to ensuring that equipment protects the back and joints and does not put undue strain on the individual wearer. An ergonomic consideration for firefighters also needs to address the way equipment is stored and carried.

Adjustability of equipment is also vital, not only to account for firefighters’ physical requirements, but also for differing environments, so that equipment can be adjusted easily, quickly and properly, especially when every second counts.

Where fire services are becoming more multicultural, language barriers can pose challenges. In these scenarios there is no room for complicated equipment that requires extensive instructions for operation. Equipment must be intuitive, simple to use and easily comprehensible.

Latest Developments

Dräger’s PSS® AirBoss is a case in point for design based on modern and diverse firefighter requirements. It has been ten years in development, during which time we have utilised medical, physiological and safety expertise and thoroughly tested technology.

The Type 4 Nano cylinder provides a continued market leading reduction in cylinder weight, meaning it is significantly lighter than existing SCBA cylinders. State of the art ergonomics is another vital feature, with improved wearer comfort achieved by shifting the centre of gravity relationship between the human body and the set thereby creating a ventilated space behind the SCBA backplate to assist reduction in thermal build up for the wearer.

PSS® AirBoss’ weight is carried by the legs and pelvis rather than the shoulders and back. This not only improves personal comfort, but also enhances mobility within confined spaces. These improvements reduce firefighters’ physical stress, which in turn reduces the risk of strain-related injuries and fatigue.

Looking Ahead

An area where we continue to serve a diverse firefighting workforce is our recent Health for the Firefighter survey, which asks questions on age, gender and ethnicity. The results will provide a wide range of views and perceptions, and therefore further our understanding on how we can account for them in product design.

Our overriding goal as manufacturers, in everything that we do, is to further the health and safety of firefighters and others working in high-risk environments. And in an industry where a split second can be the difference between life and death, these advancements which take into account our diverse workforce, are crucial to furthering that goal to benefit everyone in our community.