Prof (Dr) M.S.Parmar, Email: [email protected]

Northern India Textile Research Association, Sector-23, Rajnagar, Ghaziabad


The role of firefighters is very extensive in our society. Firefighters not only play a pivotal role to rescue human lives during fire accident but also save properties for extensive damage by extinguishing hazardous fires. It is one of the most life threatening occupations that require intensive physical work in hazardous environment. For fighting fire accident more effectively and saving their precious life, it is needed to provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). The fire fighting suit is one of the important parts of PPE. Most of the body part of the fire-fighter is protected by this suit.

Fire-fighter suit was first invented by Zachary Hansen in the 1600’s. Early fire-fighter suits were made-up of leather. This coat had felt or wool liners provided. Later we can also find the use of canvas & rubber in mid seventeenth century. Those previous interface of coat left a large gap of protection against fire. In the year of 1930 Aluminised suit was developed which was further modified/upgraded in the 1937. In the 1971 Smart Suit (having electrical sensors) was developed.  In the year of 2003 Thermal imaging cameras was also provided with suit. The further up gradations were incorporated in the late years. Some of the International development on fire fighter suit is discussed below.

US Firefighters are required to wear turnout  ensemble (i.e., protective coat and pants), and other personal protective equipment (PPE) such as helmet, gloves, boots and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) certified by NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1971 and 1981 standards. These items of firefighters’ protective system have been designed to provide protection against multiple hazards such as thermal threats (e.g. exposure to flame and excessive heat), toxic gas inhalation, and physical injuries (e.g. cuts, collisions, punctures, slips, falls etc.). So far, the focus of most studies on the firefighters, protective system has been on thermal protection, which combined with advances in material technology during the past decade, has greatly decreased burn injuries (Boorady et al. 2013). However, literature reports that the efforts to improve thermal protection have inevitably increased the weight and bulkiness of the firefighters’ protective system, hence, significantly compromising firefighters’ mobility and comfort (Adams & Keyserling 1993;

Functions and standards of firefighter suits:

Keeping in mind various activities like extinguishing fire, rescuing humans, climbing  stairs during operation etc, the fire-fighter suit is designed to performed several functions. It gives an individual a degree of protection from the thermal environment produced by a fire. It affords a limited degree of protection from thermal radiation, hot gas convection from a fire, and direct contact without surfaces. Burn injuries while wearing this protective clothing are directly related to the fire fighter’s thermal exposure, the actions of the fire fighter within the thermal, environment, the biological functions which regulate heat buildup within the human body and the performance of components that make up their protective clothing ensemble. Easy donning and doffing of fire fighter suit also play an important role.

A good fire fighter suits must protect the firefighter from the following:

  • Flash fire
  • Conductive heat
  • Radiant heat
  • Absorbed heat
  • Moisture vapours

Beside above it should have following additional characteristics:

  • Thermal insulation
  • Water repellency
  • Breathable
  • Flexible
  • Light weight
  • Durability to several washes
  • High impact, puncture and tear resistance

According to NFPA 1971 as well as EN 469, all turnout clothing must have three components:

  • Outer shell: The outer shell resists ignition upon being exposed to thermal radiation or very short periods of direct flame contact. It also provides safety to the wearer from chemical hazards.
  • Inner Shell: The inner shell is generally composed of moisture barrier and a thermal barrier.
    • Moisture barrier: Moisture barriers may totally prevent the passage moisture, whether liquid or vapour. Now a day’s bicomponent ePTFE membrane being used for this purpose.
    • Thermal barrier: The thermal barrier is a layer of insulating material which retards heat flow through the garment.
  • Inner liner: It is light weight flame retardant fabric.

International Scenario:

In between these layers are pockets of air referred to as ´dead zones´. These layers of air along with the three protective layers help to further insulate the wearer from the extreme environments of fires. Usually turnout pants are outfitted with reinforced knees and leather cuffs. The materials used for the three layers in turnout trousers and coats may vary but will very often include a meta-aramid/para-aramid combination of material.

Globe, USA is one of the largest firefighter suit manufacturers in the world. Globe has introduced many of the materials, designs, and construction methods. Globe use DuPont NOMEX® inherently flame resistant materials, 3M SCOTCHLITE® reflective materials, and expanded PTFE technology including GORE-TEX® and CROSSTECH® moisture barriers. The Lübeck Fire and Rescue Service, Germany did not want to rely on a solution just because it was familiar to the firefighters so they undertook practical testing. The fire brigade tried two different protective suits from the clothing manufacturer Viking. One was made from an outer fabric with high para-aramid content and the other from UK manufacturer Hainsworth® Titan, a special fabric consisting of DuPont™ Nomex® and DuPont™ Kevlar® fibres. Both were put to the test in the field by professional firefighters. All key fire safety aspects were scrutinised in both garments in addition to the wash resistance of the outer fabrics. This proved a decisive factor as, whilst the material with a high para-aramid content had started to fade after five washes, the appearance of the material made from Hainsworth® Titan incorporating DuPont™ Nomex® fibres was almost unchanged.

TITAN is a patented, dual layer, advanced woven fabric system for fire fighter. The two layers are woven together using a special weave pattern, which allows the innovative fabric system to work effectively. The V-Force® protective suit is certified in diverse layer designs in accordance with EN 469:2005 – layer construction. The Structural firefighting clothing to Level 2 consists of: i) An outer layer to protect the wearer from flame injuries. ii) Moisture barrier to give protection from external water penetration and allow internal moisture vapour to escape. iii) Thermal barrier and inner layer/lining providing heat protection from proximity to flame.

Indian scenario:

Fire tragedies are not new in India. The country has witnessed several devastating fires that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives and damaged property worth billions. Fire also results in the loss of business, of goodwill and effects environment severely. Damages in industrial fires, for instance, are not limited to the industry where the fire occurs, but also effects other adjacent industries around it. In 2010-11, as many as 22,187 fire related calls were reported resulting in the death of 447 persons and injury to 2,613 persons across India. Building-fires are the most common among fire disasters. In the summer months from May-August of 2012, as many as 9 major incidents of fire had been reported including the fire at Maharashtra Secretariat building in Mumbai on 21 June in which three people lost their lives.

Fire service is one of the most important emergency response services in the country, which comes under the 12th schedule of the constitution dealing with Municipal functions. At present, fire prevention and fire fighting services are organized by the concerned States and Union Territories (UTs), and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Directorate of National Disaster Response Force and Civil Defence (NDRF&CD, Fire Cell), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) renders technical advice to the States, UTs, and central ministries on fire protection, prevention, and legislation. Fire services in Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (excluding Indore), and Punjab are under the respective Municipal Corporations. In the remaining states, it is under the respective Home Department.

At this moment there is no specification available on firefighter suit. BIS is working on this and circulated a draft specification based on EN 469.

In India, there are a few manufacturers of fire fighter suits. Most of the cases they are doing assembling work. In many cases fire fighter suits or clothing used in fire fighter suits are imported. No remarkable work is done to develop indigenous fire fighter suit by changing chemistry of various layers used in the fire fighter suit. NITRA has started working on developing fire fighter suit clothing under Ministry of Textiles, Govt of India sponsored project. In this work, fire fighter suit clothing will be developed using various techniques to satisfy the requirement of fire fighters keeping in mind their safety, comfort and cost.


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