In the beginning of the 20th century, the protective clothing worn by fire fighters – commonly known as “turnout gear” or “bunker gear” – included thick wool trousers, a heavy red wool shirt, a hefty and cumbersome rubber slicker and a heavy wool tunic. Wool had become the popular go-to choice at the time due to its capacity for shielding against heat, and its (somewhat limited) water-resistance capabilities. Knee-high leather boots were initially worn in the early years across the firefighting industry, before the eventual introduction of rubber boots.
Some versions of these boots were extended to hip-height. These were called “three-quarter rubber boots” and appeared reminiscent to the fishing waders of the present today.
Although the historical significance of the term “turnout gear” has blurred a little over time, one of its many definitions is due to the firefighters who would “turn out” to respond to an emergency call whilst wearing their protective uniform. The expression is typically used to describe various piece of their kit, featuring garments such as the jacket, helmet, boots and pants, although “turnout gear” can also be used to refer to hazmat suits too.
For the majority of U.S. fire departments, the basic level of turnout gear consists of protective clothes that provide a safe environment around dangerous fire-fuelled environments, as well as allowing enough room for swift movement in case of falling debris and other external threats. However, more specialized elements of clothing are also utilized as the firefighter’s first line of defense against a vast gamut of hazards. These technologically advanced pieces of equipment includes various types of breathing apparatus and communications devices, so they can combat the flames, comfortably handle the extreme variances in temperature, and keep in contact with fellow members of their team all at the same time.
Constructed from high impact plastics, Kevlar materials and carbon fibers, a firefighter’s helmet will aid in protecting against falling rubble. Its design also incorporates a heat-resistant visor and a chin strip that will keep it secure during physically demanding rescues. Heavy-duty boots are made from robust rubber and/or durable leather, and characteristically include a steel-capped section at the bottom that will help to protect against unexpected injuries from out-of-the-ordinary risks.
Heavy-duty industrial and commercial turnout gear dryers have been developed over the years to dry a firefighter’s gear in the fastest and most practical way possible. Available in portable and wall mount designs, direct dryers help keep turnout gear in good physical shape by reducing the possibility of negative health issues caused by bacteria and mildew. If you are a brave firefighter, it will probably go unsaid that you need to care for your turnout gear and, in turn, it will take care of you.
The following “Safety Standards for Fire Fighters – Chapter 296-305-02001 Personal Protective Equipment and Protective Clothing” statute highlights how important this notion is:
“Fire fighters shall be trained in the function, donning and doffing, care, use, inspection, maintenance and limitations of the protective equipment assigned to them or available for their use.” It goes on to state that “The fire department shall provide for the cleaning of protective clothing and contaminated station/work uniforms at no cost to the employee. Such cleaning shall be performed by either a cleaning service, or at a fire department facility, that is equipped to handle contaminated clothing.”
In fact, it is against code to not have your PPE gear and boots properly dried and ready for use at any time. Therefore, it is critical to have a method for properly drying your uniform. Commercial mechanical direct driers take the chore out of this task, so that the heroic firefighters that serve everyday can courageously do their jobs for the good of our nation.