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Turnout/Bunker Gear: Time for a change?

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  • #16
    Before I give up my bunker gear I would like some more information -
    1- What percentage of the BFD members have returned to the coat and 3/4 boots? What have their experiences been? Any increase in injuries? Any decrease in injuries?
    2- What are the details surrounding the FDNY deaths - how much work under what conditions were the men doing? How was their health and physical conditioning?

    We had a member years ago who appeared to be in good physical condition and health and who suffered a heart attack while standing at the pump panel in fresh air. I think there are way too many variables here to point at bunker gear as the sole culprit.

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    • #17
      To say that bunker gear is a contibuting factor to heart attacks is absurd. I for one am not willing to sacrafice parts of my anatomy to gauge how hot it is. Anytime I am fighting a structure fire I am wearing full bunker gear, including a nomex hood. One thing that is never mentioned, how many of the firefighters who die of heart attacks are smokers? Cigarettes will kill you long before the bunker gear will.

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      • #18
        New York, Boston & Chicago...

        One of the true universal constants in the fire service is that when a new technology aimed at firefighter safety comes out, there will be a huge outcry from these three cities opposing it. It doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter whether it's been used successfully in the other 98% of the U.S. It doesn't matter whether the arguments they make against it make any sense at all.

        Ever wonder why the rest of us look west when we look for ways to improve our operations??

        Go ahead and burn your nuts off in those 3/4 length boots, guys...just don't look for any sympathy from me when you do.

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        • #19
          Having worked fires in both types of gear, I'll take bunker gear every time. The added protection far outweighs the additional weight, heat, etc. We require all active firefighters in my company to have yearly physicals with interior attack people being subject to more intensive testing (EKG, pulmonary, blood, chest x-ray, etc). While this is not a guarantee it at least gives you an idea on where you stand physically.

          Another key element is rehab. How many SCBA bottles are you allowed before rehab? Is the requirement for rehab enforced or just given lip-service? Do you even have a rehab plan?
          I've seen departments fight brush fires in 80 degree heat with their members in full structural gear...why? Should the 50 yr old who smokes be wearing an SCBA on an interior attack with no life hazard?

          Be smart, be safe, know your own limits, and if you're a Chief officer, you hopefully have an idea of the limits of your people.

          Comment


          • #20
            My Department was one of the 1st in our county to switch to bunker gear in the late 70s, but the guys were allowed to keep their 3/4s for summertime runs that policy was in affect until around 1990 or so and after that full PPE ensemble any season any run and we haven't had any problems at all with wearing bunker gear in the heat of the summer or the cold of winter. I mean how come places like Houston and Pheonix wear bunker gear and don't seem to have a problem with it they are a lot hotter in July than I am in NJ so its not the gears problem.

            ------------------
            The statements above are my own opinions

            FF Greg Grudzinski
            Oaklyn Fire Dept.
            Station 18-3

            [This message has been edited by ENGINE18-3 (edited 01-18-2001).]

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            • #21
              I rely on my experience and not my ears to tell me when to back away. The problem is fire fightinng is such a macho thing nobody wants to be seen to "wimp out".
              As retrotex stated, I've seen guys come out of a toxic atmosphere and rip off their mask and light up a smoke. Bunker gear is here to stay until something better comes along.

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              • #22
                Hey can anybody who's familiar with the West Coast, tell me if its true that guys out west, specifically L.A. City Firefighters take their liners out of their bunker pants? I had heard this common practice out there. If so, what kind of burn statisitics do they have? I wear bunker gear, myself, and have never worn 3/4 boots, so i can't really say which is better. I can kind of see both sides, with it being very obvious that more safety is with the full turnouts. However I do believe the arguments about stress factor from the extra gear. I'd like to know if what L.A. is rumored to do is true, and if so, maybe there is a happy medium somewhere out there...

                ------------------
                Any Opinion expressed, are my own, and do not reflect my Department...RB

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                • #23
                  Ok..I'm a Boston firefighter. I also have not worn my bunker pants since August, when we where given the choice. I went out and bought my 3/4 boot's. I have noticed a major difference in my work habit. I can do more, have more mobility, and less stress. I read this board and look and see who is posting there opinion about the gear. It's the same people who tell us all the fires they put out, but truth be told, they have little to no true fire ex.
                  The guy who told everyone how Boston Chicago, and FDNY will always buck the trend. Could it be that those 3 cities do more fire duty then anyone else? Why should i listen to some guy who has been in 3 fires last year?
                  We had a guy from Cali, visit out station a few months ago. I asked him about how hey handle the heat, he told me that alot of them cut out the pant liners. Why even wear them then?
                  This is my dollars worth.

                  ------------------
                  ** The opionions are mine and mine alone, they are not that of my dept or the local**

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                  • #24
                    From going through academy in 1982, I remember something about the air we were breathing (SCBA's were optional). It seemed that even if a FF smoked 2 packs cigarettes a day, if he came down with lung cancer, still considered job-related. Now as a nurse practitioner, a question: No matter how healthy you are, when you dump adrenaline into a resting heart, STRESS occurs. The difference is in how each heart responds to that stress. And, yes, a large percentage (I don't know if it's 95% but) is due to genes. If your father and your brothers all died before age 40 from heart disease, there is only so preventive work that can be done and the odds of you living past 50 are slim. If, however, everyone in your family lived to be in their 90's, then God-bless you, you probably will too.

                    What are some things you can do to help?? Exercise 30 minutes a day, eat properly, watch your weight, don't smoke, drink moderately (if at all), get regular check-ups (full physicals with lab and EKG). Will this prevent a heart attack?? NO.

                    Again, and I know this sucks, but a lot of health comes down to genes.

                    Be safe!!

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      bfd1071,
                      I just had to reply to you're post on this thread. In the short time I have been actively reading this forum I see that are a lot of people who tend to exaggerate either their experience, activity or both. However, I take come offense to the sweeping generalization that all those who post an opinion different than yours must be inferior in some respect. I happen to be at a very busy company and make good many fires per year, and I am a strong advocate of turnout gear. That is my personal experience, and opinion.
                      I tend to pay more attention to the posts from guys that work for larger metro depts. because I can relate better. I may not always agree but I still consider the opinion.
                      So, not everyone on here is talking through their hat just because their opinion differs.

                      ------------------
                      Views stated do not reflect that of my department or local.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        In my prior life i was a industrial engineer and worked in the health & safety field. I also had a good bit of ergonomics in college. I'm certainly no expert but i do have some background on this. There is absolutely no doubt that added weight and clothing add to the physiological stress of any activity.

                        Less clothing & weight = less stress.

                        Clothing on the "core" head, thorax, & groin has more effect on heat retention. Weight on the feet has the most effect on exertion. For this reason, as long as I have a choice, I'll wear leather pull on boots.

                        Structural firefighting is designed to protect the wearer from ambient temperatures far less than the 1000+ degrees at the ceiling or during a flashover. Turnout gear will provide very limited protection during a flashover.

                        I'm a little unclear as to how much protection various turnouts give you during a flashover, but none of them will protect you for more than a few seconds.

                        That being said, it seems to me that the most appropriate turnout gear would be as light as possible and still give you protection from the (relatively) low heat levels found at the floor, and a few seconds to bail out of a flashover. I thought that Boston't turnout gear was fairly light, but i've never used it. The gear I wear is probably as heavyweight as you can find...heavy PBI shell and quilted nomex liner, but i don't have a choice.

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                        • #27
                          FYI, FDNY had yet another LODD today, this time a female from EMS had a heart attack while shoveling snow...not in bunker gear...

                          This further emphasizes my point that Its not just bunker gear, health is a major factor.

                          Also I have worn about 6 sets of bunker gear recently, including a set IDENTICAL in every way to FDNY.. my friend wanted a pair so bad he bought the exact same stuff for his car.

                          It was the LIGHTEST gear I have ever worn and it was not hot at all. Talk to any FDNY guy and see if they dont think it is the lightest and least hot gear they have ever worn..

                          Cousin Vinny
                          Kentland, MD VFD Co. 33
                          Woodmere, NY VFD Co. 354

                          **this is what I think.. Not my oganization, Capish?**

                          [This message has been edited by CousinVinny354 (edited 01-22-2001).]

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            I have to throw my two cents in on this topic. First I noticed that most if not all of the replies came from the East Coast. So speaking from the West, all I know is full bunker gear and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have never heard of guys removing or cutting out liners, but I do know of guys that will ditch their duty pants when it's hot outside. It has been my experience that more firefighters are effected by heat related injuries or MI's on wildland fires. Why, because their is no rehab set up! We strictly follow the 2 bottle rule, unless there is a substantial threat to life or property (we won't lose a block cause of 2in2out or the 2 bottle rules)
                            I firmly belive that we as firefighters need to become healthier and smarter. That includes embracing, not denying technology for the sake of tradition. Don't get me wrong I wish that leather was forever, but if someone could develop a set of bunkers, a helmet and a SCBA/PASS that would FOREVER prevent LODD's, I would gladly wear it with pride. And I would go home safe in the knowledge that not one more Brother would make The Supreme Sacrifice.

                            Steve

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                            • #29
                              Okay, i have to agree with bfd. these guys fight a hell of a lot more fires than most do. i have been a ff in the south for ten years and have never fought more than three major structures a year. Most guys are whipped after a single fire, the bunker gear definately adds to the physical exhaustion of these firefighters. The chance these guys are going to fight another major structure that day is slim...and that is a good thing. Philly did testing with climbing stair with and without gear. now they bring their work boots on all calls and carry their fire boots up to a staging area if the situation requires it. We fight wiland fires in our gear which is not what it is designed for. Hot temps, high humitidity, fire, and bunker gear don't mix well. I feel that the need for tradition in the fire department have prevented u.s. ff with getting the best gear necessary to best accomplish their missions. I love my helmet, but the design is obviously antiquated and our need of comm and therman imaging (to be fucnt must be hands free) are ackwardly retrofitted to the existing gear. we need to evolve. I walked in toa house that was full of white smoke from a a.c. fire. i had my jacket open and my nomex around my neck. I had become complacent responding to so many false alarms. After a primary search we located no fire orderred then fans to vent. with that fire ripped through the roof and i watched the attack scuttle door be sucked into it and saw a see a fire. we had no hoseline. Lucky the fire vented through the roof and we fought the fire with very little heat from the fire. my chief was next to me in jeans and a tee shirt. we could have fought it literally that way. but shouldn't we gone expecting the worse? i think so. always wear your gear, but more important make sure it is clean and you properly fasten it. So it is the trade off, if i had to fight three to five fires on my one shift, i might require lighter gear to reduce the wear on my body.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                For the record, I wear full bunker gear on every fire run: 7.5 oz. PBI/Kevlar w/ quilted Nomex liner, leather Pro boots, leather helmet, NFPA gloves and Nomex hood. This is mandatory in my department. There have been many times when I needed and appreciated having that level of protection. I can also say that after a dozen or so runs on the shift, and especially in the summer months it leaves me feeling pretty worn out and longing for the days of the 3/4 boots.
                                Oh, and by the way, to those who "look to the west" for their firefighting ideals...check out the San Francisco Fire Department some time. You'll most likely see a SFFD fireman wearing a leather helmet, coat, FR uniform pants and work boots, no hood. They usually wear bunker pants only at night. SFFD has some very busy companies who see a lot of work and get the job done. So, that makes San Fran, Chicago and Boston among the major departments that don't wear full bunker gear all the time. I'm not saying any of these departments are right or wrong, we, or our own departments, should obviously make these decisions for ourselves...just some food for thought.

                                [This message has been edited by NozzleHog (edited 01-23-2001).]

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