Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
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Less heat, no stress
Published:  15 November, 2013

At FRI International (Chicago) Fire and Rescue met up with Todd Herring, VP Fire Service Sales for Tecgen Xtreme apparel.Tecgen Xtreme apparel supplies a lightweight breathable single layer garment that offers high flame and radiant heat protection. Ann-Marie Knegt decided to find out why more and more fire departments were adding it to their ‘tool’ inventory.

Why should firefighters and rescue personnel wear Tecgen gear?

Since 80 % of the calls US firefighters receive these days are non-fire incidents it makes sense to wear a garment suited to the type of response you mainly have to deal with.

Equally, specialised rescue teams can benefit from a product that has been specially designed for technical rescue. Fire departments can experience the advantages of wearing a multi-functional garment that is lightweight and breathable. Tecgen gear is suitable for fighting wildfires as well as for technical rescue scenarios such as motor vehicle collisions, high angle rescue, confined space, trench rescue, and search and rescue.

Normal turnout gear is bulky and heavy, so by wearing a single layer garment like Tecgen gear you gain that dexterity and mobility back. At the same time it allows the wearer easy access during extrication and other technical rescue incidents. It needs to be emphasized that this is an addition to  – and not an alternative for – conventional structural gear. Tecgen Xtreme gear is a tool to make response highly efficient for specific non-fire incidents.

Specifically, the main benefit is the fact that you can work for longer periods of time while wearing Tecgen gear. People in traditional turnout gear become hot and tired very rapidly, so they have to go into rehab to bring their core temperature down. By wearing a single layer garment versus traditional heavy-weight turnout gear, the total heat loss is improved and thus provides for a more comfortable wearer experience. 

 

So how does Tecgen gear work, and what makes it different?

The Tecgen fibre is fundamentally different from other fibres on the market because of its inherent flame and heat resistance. It has a high-density carbon shell, yet the core has been engineered to be flexible, providing increased durability over typical carbon fibres. Tecgen fabric has been created by mixing the Tecgen fibre with para-aramid., This combination has resulted in a fabric that has very high levels of thermal protection (TPP) and breathability (THL), which is a strong benefit given that one normally has to sacrifice one for the other. The end result is a fabric construction that exceeds the standards, while also providing comfort and increased mobility. Tecgen Xtreme gear is dual certified for NFPA 1951 (Technical Rescue) and NFPA 1977. We also score very high –16 – on the thermal protection test (TPP), which is the same test used to certify traditional turnout gear. This score is exceptionally high for a single layer, lightweight garment; therefore, wearers also get the advantage of thermal protection and much higher radiant heat protection than traditional fibres. We are very proud that we have been able to engineer that level of protection in our garment.

Who is currently wearing Tecgen Xtreme gear?

There are probably 1,300 to 1,400 US fire departments that are wearing our range of clothing.  We have seen especially high uptake in Texas. We are currently seeking to expand outside the US, and to date have had considerable success in the Caribbean. Aside from that, many trainers and instructors have switched to our products, as well as the rescue tool demonstrators who travel around a lot. These professionals have to wear their kit all day and every day, so a lightweight, breathable solution is ideal for them.

What is the value proposition or return on investment for Tecgen gear? Is it a luxury item in the current economic climate?

We are able to offer this product for a reasonable price, and for much less than traditional turnout gear. Still you are right it could be considered a luxury item. However, since you will be wearing this kit a lot of the time, you reduce the exposure to UV, wear and tear, and contamination of your conventional kit. All in all, maintenance costs are significantly reduced while also extending the life of the structural fire garment. However, the real value is in the lightweight characteristic of the Tecgengear and it’s highly breathable nature, which helps improve wearer comfort. We run into firefighters all the time who never knew this was available, and they are wowed by the idea.

In conclusion, a commonly heard counter argument against acquiring lightweight garments like this is that there is no space on the truck to store extra clothing. What do you say to this?

Structural gear should always be available. The departments wearing Tecgen gear will take it with them on the apparatus –or in their personal vehicles if they are volunteers responding directly to the scene. There are different approaches to storing the gear on the apparatus – it just depends on the configuration and space available. Where there's a will, there's a way. It's no different than carrying other tools you need for the job. Planning and prioritisation is the key. The end result is having the right tool for the job in all situations – not just having to make do with what's available!