Why moisture in PPE threatens firefighter safety
Gore reports on the importance of an effective moisture barrier
Water is usually a firefighters’ friend, but if it permeates inside their protective clothing it can quickly become a significant threat to their safety, increasing the risk of burn injury.
Whether it originates from water spray or a build-up of perspiration, the presence of moisture on or within structural firefighting gear is a key factor in low energy heat transfer, or “steam burn” phenomena.
That is why it is so important that firefighters operate with clothing that is waterproof from the outside while at the same time allowing moisture to escape from the inside of the garment.
You cannot see it or touch it, but the moisture barrier inside every structural firefighting garment plays a critical role in the wearer’s protection. It has to be incredibly durable to maintain performance without any degradation or loss of integrity throughout a punishing lifetime.
In intense heat exposure, moisture captured in the outer layers of an ensemble can take heat away from the garment, but if the garment is wet inside the risk of burn injury increases significantly. Wet garments can transfer heat 27 times faster than dry clothing systems.
Gore was the first company to recognise and understand these risks and its original durable, waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX Moisture Barrier was the first to be introduced into UK firefighting garments in the UK.
The inclusion of a GORE-TEX Moisture Barrier creates a durable layer in firefighter gear that keeps the wearer dry by preventing water from entering the garment but allows perspiration to travel out the other way. Internal moisture is efficiently moved through the layers, keeping the thermal protective fabric dry and reducing the risk of steam or wet compression burns. Comfort and breathability are high, mitigating the risk of heat stress and keeping the wearer cooler for longer.
Moisture Barriers with GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® also incorporate protection against the penetration of viruses and bacteria found in blood and body fluids as well as common chemicals.
GORE-TEX CROSSTECH® PARALLON® product technology eliminates the need for a trade-off between thermal protection and breathability by achieving unparalleled levels of breathability, while also preventing a reduction in thermal protection that can occur as clothing gets wet, particularly from sweat.
GORE-TEX PYRAD® product technology is lightweight, durably windproof, waterproof and breathable with flame and antistatic protection designed to replace structural gear for technical rescue work. It protects firefighters, allowing them to work in confined spaces for longer, reducing the risk of heat stress.
All Gore technical fire fabrics comfortably exceed international PPE performance standards and are certified to EN469, ASNZ4967 and the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, as well as NFPA 1951, 1999 and 1971. They maintain that level of performance thanks to outstanding resistance to wear and abrasion and the ability to consistently retain high breathability and waterproofness after exposure to extreme cold and heat. Gore products are renowned for their consistently reliable thermal stability.
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