Everyone who gets involved in fire safety becomes intimately familiar with their PPE gear. PPE can sound vague, but it covers turnout gear, boots, SCBA, gloves, helmets, and any tool that you are expected to wear. Before purchasing any of this equipment, the pants and jacket should fit properly, but the same scrutiny is often missed when acquiring boots and gloves. If any piece of equipment is sized improperly, it could mean that the firefighter won’t be able to perform their job properly. In the worst-case scenario could be putting themselves in danger.
This danger is especially highlighted when it comes to women. A recent study found that 75% of women do not have access to properly fitted PPE. Women account for less than 6% of fire personnel, but if even one member of the team can’t perform at 100%, it puts the rest of the squad in danger. Common problems from improperly fitted gear includes exposure to hazardous materials, rapid air use, poor dexterity.
How do we get the proper PPE fit? If you can, get a fitting done for your team, Darley Defense, for instance, will send a sizing expert to meet your team. The expert will help your team understand the correct fit and get the right size for everyone on the team. If you don’t do that, you can ask for samples of each size and have each member of your team perform a series of stretches and drills.
The goal of the stretches and drills is to make sure that the coat and pants overlap by at least two inches while in different orientations. It’s best to start with stretches first by bending forward and then side to side. Someone should be watching to verify that the coat and pants stay overlapped throughout the stretches. If the gear passes the stretch test, the next step is to do some drills. Have the firefighter start in a prone position, crawl for about 20 feet, then have them duck-walk for another 20 feet, have them climb over something at about hip height. The goal is to have them perform a range of motion tests that they would normally be expected to do during a fire call. The observer should keep an eye on the firefighter while they are performing the drills. It’s not uncommon for the pants to not stay over the boots, which is a sign of a bad fit. The wearer will also be able to tell where there is to much strain or tension, which can also indicate a bad fit.
While departments can do fittings themselves, the best way to protect your team is to have an expert perform the fitting. Darley Defense will send an expert to help with fitting. They will talk departments through the sizing process and how to evaluate their PPE.
The team at Darley understands the importance of not only having the best equipment available, but also the right equipment for the job. That starts with properly fitting gear. Contact one of veteran firefighters for more information or a quote.