Personal Protective Equipment also known as PPE is a crucial part of Firefighter safety. PPE has come a long way since the first days of firefighting. Most firefighters back then would respond to fires in ordinary clothing or uniforms. Without any proper fire protection most fires would be fought from a defensive standpoint allowing the building to burn to the ground. Fast forward to present day, with the advances in technology, a firefighter can now enter a burning building and battle the fire from the interior.
Modern day PPE consists of many parts including bunkers, helmets, boots, SCBA and face piece. Bunker gear, including jacket and pants, all have 3 layers. This is a requirement of NFPA 1971 which requires an outer shell, moisture barrier, and a thermal liner. The outer shell and the thermal layer both protect against radiant heat, and flame protection. The moisture barrier protects the firefighter from getting soaked in firefighting operations; which could cause problems such as steam burns. This allows the firefighter to operate in the extreme heat of structural fires. The helmet is made of high-tech plastic and composite materials that is resistant to heat. The curved brim on the rear is to prevent water and hot embers from rolling down the collars. The boots are usually heat resistant material and not steel toed to prevent heat buildup. The Self Contained Breathing Apparatus or SCBA and face piece is probably a firefighter most important piece of equipment. The SCBA is an open circuit breathing device with air tank and pack that connects to a face piece. This allows a firefighter to enter a fire or IDLH atmosphere without inhaling and toxic substances. This equipment could the difference between life and death for a firefighter.
There have been multiple Line of duty deaths documented related to PPE malfunctions or lack of PPE. Smoke inhalation is one of the leading cause in firefighter deaths. Without proper PPE firefighters will not be able to perform the required tasked that they are assigned. Whether it is a roof ventilation, interior fire attack, or a Hazmat incident PPE should always be a firefighter priority. In order to help those in need a firefighter must first help themselves by utilizing proper PPE