By Robert Avsec for FireRescueOne BrandFocus
As a longtime fire service instructor, I've always made it a point to stress to my students this important point about their firefighting protective hood: It's traditionally the weakest component in the structural firefighting protective ensemble.
While their coat and trousers and gloves offer protection from thermal, liquid, and physical hazards, their hood only protects them from the thermal hazards of interior structural firefighting. And in fact, when the hood becomes wet from water or the wearer’s perspiration, the thermal protection becomes degraded as well.
The limitations of the legacy protective hood have become increasingly evident as we've learned more about the skin absorption risk that firefighters face from soot and other particulates during interior structural firefighting. Those legacy hoods, particularly as they become worn, do little to stop contaminated particulates from penetrating the hood's fabric as well as entering through gaps in the hood/SCBA facepiece interface.
W. L. Gore & Associates (Gore) recognize this is unacceptable to firefighters. As the premier innovator for developing breathable moisture barriers for use in firefighting PPE (e.g., coats, trousers, boots and gloves), the design engineers at Gore saw an opportunity to take a good hood and make it better.
The result of their efforts is the GORE Particulate Hood that is manufactured and distributed by Majestic Fire Apparel, a leading manufacturer of fire apparel. “Gore’s philosophy for its products used by the fire service has always been to make them protective, durable, comfortable, and a great value,” said Lon Edelman, a strategic marketer with Gore.
According to Edelman, that's been the focus over the years as Gore worked to develop moisture barriers for the different components of the firefighter protective ensemble. “Whether it was for the coat or the pants or the gloves, we've never just taken what worked in one component and used it in another,” said Edelman. “Our people have always looked at what the particular needs were for a component, say firefighter gloves, and then designed the best possible solution.”
Thus, while the current GORE moisture barriers for turnout gear are what Gore is known for today, Gore’s design engineers set out to develop a new barrier best suited for a new generation of hood.
The outcome is a particulate-blocking hood that is true to Gore's philosophy, in that it is:
Protective. The GORE Particulate Hood incorporates a particulate-blocking layer for increased protection from particles found at the fireground, blocking 99.9% of particulates 0.1 to 1.0 microns in size. NFPA 1971 (2018 edition) specifies that a protective hood should stop at least 90% of particulates of that size range to be considered particulate blocking.
Durable. Even after 100 launderings, the GORE Particulate Hood still blocks 99.9% of particulates 0.1 to 1.0 microns in size. (NFPA 1971 specifies that a particulate blocking hood should still meet the 90% performance after 20 launderings and two heat cycles.) And those laundered hoods still provided a high level of protection at the hood/SCBA facepiece interface as a new hood.
Not only does the GORE Particulate Hood stop particulates from penetrating the hood, it also significantly reduces the number of particulates that can reach the firefighter’s head and neck through the hood/SCBA interface and seams in the finished hood.
Extensive testing. NFPA 1971 only requires testing of the fabric (the flat material test) used to construct the hoods. “So, we exceeded the performance requirement and durability requirements of the standard in terms of the hood’s particulate-blocking performance and durability,” said Edelman. “But we have a very big tradition at Gore of testing our products for fitness for the intended use, so we go beyond the testing of the performance of the fabric.”
Gore conducts use- and system-level testing of the products, which in this case meant seeing how the hood performs when used as a firefighter would use it. “We took the hood to an independent testing facility and had firefighters wear the hood along with the rest of their protective gear – their coat, pants, helmet, gloves, boots, and SCBAs” said Edelman. “Then we used the F.A.S.T. (Fluorescent Aerosol Screening Test) to measure how well the hood performed at preventing particulates from entering and making contact with the firefighter’s skin through the hood/SCBA interface.”
Two easy-to-don styles. The GORE Particulate Hood comes in two styles: The black hood with thermal protective layers of Ultra C6.2 fabric and the white hood with Nomex blend thermal protective layers. Both hoods are constructed using Gore’s unique red stitching on the exterior for all seams that identifies the outer side of the hood so that the wearer always knows that they’ve donned their hood properly.
Affordable. “We’ve made great efforts in collaboration with Majestic Fire Apparel to keep the hood’s cost to fire departments under $100 per hood,” said Edelman. “We understand that purchasing these new hoods is a significant cost for any fire department, especially with those departments who want to provide two hoods to each member.”
Wear Test Program
Knowing that firefighters like to try before they buy, for fire departments with 50 or more members Gore may provide a limited number of free hoods for the department’s evaluation. Interested fire departments can have their authorized Majestic Fire Apparel dealer sign up for the Wear Test Program here.