Fighting fire

September 2011 Fire & Safety

Louisa Garland-Els writes about Imperial’s new fire venture.

Imperial Armour has been operating for 11 years in the PPE business and has now opened a new division, Imperial Fire in September 2010. The purpose of the new division is to bring to South Africa the latest technology together with new innovative designs.

In January, 2011, Louisa Garland-Els participated in the Fire and Security Show in Intersec, Dubai, to understand the requirements for the Middle East market and what was being supplied to the end users. In March 2011, she visited FDIC in Indianapolis. The reason for visiting FDIC was to understand the needs of the fire fighters, but also what there was available in terms of the latest technology and designs to bring back to South Africa.

Fire fighting suits in America must be certified to NFPA Standards 1971 (2007 edition). There is never an exception made. When it comes to turnout gear, it is what is inside that matters most and why it is so important that all three layers meet the NFPA Standards. This consists of:

1. Outer shell,

2. Thermal barrier,

3. Moisture barrier.

The outer shell is the first line of defence for the fire fighter. Its main purpose is to provide flame durability, abrasion resistance to the exposed vulnerable areas and most importantly to keep the gear dry, thus not compromising the garments’ thermal insulation.

The moisture barrier is the second layer of the turnout gear which is lightweight and breathable to help reduce overall heat stress during strenuous working conditions. The moisture barrier consists of an ePTFE-based film laminated to non-woven substrate. It also provides resistance against blood, body fluids, common chemicals and water and provides excellent total heat loss and thermal protective performance.

The thermal liner is the third and closest layer to the body – considered the most critical component of the turnout system. It consists of facecloth fabric that is either quilted to a single layer of needle punched batting or several layers of spun-laced batting. The main purpose is to minimise the amount of heat transfer from the fire to the body of the fire fighter. It is responsible for a significant part of the thermal protection (up to 70%) of the thermal system.

What was stressed to me, is that the three layers make up the complete system. Should one component not meet the standards, the whole system will be compromised.

Another point that was highlighted is that the moisture and thermal layer must be bound together at the edges by a single stitched coated binding and the seams. The seams of the moisture barrier are taped and heat-sealed to completely stop water penetration. Without the sealing it compromises once again the whole system of the suit.

Imperial Fire’s goal is to ensure that you, as an end user, will have available the latest technology and be aware of the standards that are required to be implemented, of which we should obviously ensure is adopted in South Africa.

For more information contact Imperial Fire, +27 (0)31 700 2650,

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