Current test methods and standards do not fully characterize the performance of fire fighter equipment in high temperature, rough duty environments. The objective of this project is to increase the level of performance, efficiency, and safety of fire fighters by developing test methods for determining the performance of fire fighter equipment under the extreme environments in which they operate. The knowledge gained will be transferred to the fire service as well as to standards developing organizations to support the development of standards for the performance of fire fighter equipment under extreme environmental conditions. The three major areas of study include the performance of fire fighter self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), performance of fire fighter electronic equipment in rough-duty fire fighting environments (Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), fire fighter locators, and fire fighter radios), and performance of fire fighter protective clothing.
Objective: To provide experimental data and associated standards for the evaluation of fire fighter equipment performance by 2014.
What is the new technical idea? Previous full scale fire experiments have indicated that current fire fighter equipment does not perform in a consistent manner in high temperature environments and current test methods and standards do not fully characterize the performance of fire fighter equipment in realistic fire environments. This study will provide experimental data and test methods that can be used to ensure consistent performance for the components of the suite of equipment used by fire fighters. The current fire fighter personal protective clothing ensemble, consisting of pants, coat, gloves, boots, hood, helmet, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), contains gaps in protection between some of the items. This research study seeks to provide data to help develop solutions to the gaps, as well as measure the improvements afforded by the solutions. These topic areas are specifically identified as the top priority issue by the Technology and Science panel at the 2011 National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium. Changes in fire fighter equipment include the implementation of electronic technological devices embedded in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). SCBAs, for example, have recently incorporated PASS devices, where in the past, fire fighters carried separate devices. In the future, it is likely that the fire fighter SCBA facepiece will incorporate heads-up displays to indicate the status of gear, air supply, temperature, heat flux, fire fighter body statistics, thermal imaging, and situational awareness aids such as location information, and radio communication gear. The thermal performance of these devices must be understood, and test methods must be developed to measure the performance of the gear in fire fighter high temperature rough duty environments. The test methods should provide a consistent thermal exposure indicative of the fire fighter duty environment, so that various pieces of gear provide appropriate levels of performance and protection. This area of research is also one of the strategic focus areas in the Fire Research Division’s draft Strategic Roadmap entitled Reducing the Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities.
What is the research plan? The project consists of three major tasks: 1. Performance of fire fighter self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), 2. Performance of fire fighter electronic equipment (RFID, locators, and radios), and 3) Performance of fire fighter protective clothing. The first two tasks involve the thermal performance of fire fighter equipment in high temperature rough duty environments. The research plan consists of determining the appropriate metrics for performance evaluation, laboratory scale and full scale fire experiments to determine equipment performance, and developing metrics and standard test methods for use by standards development organizations. It is anticipated that fire environment temperatures and heat flux are key parameters. While large scale fire experiments are useful for studying the performance of gear, and are especially valuable for capturing three dimensional effects, they are typically insufficient for product acceptance testing. Instead, once the appropriate metrics and fire exposures are determined, repeatable and controlled laboratory scale test procedures can be developed to measure the thermal performance of the gear. The third task, performance of fire fighter clothing, also includes a thermal performance component related to the protection afforded to the fire fighter during fireground operations. In addition, the long term durability of fire fighter turnout gear will be examined, including the effects of sunlight, thermal exposure, moisture, and laundering.
 Report of the 2nd National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium, May 20-22, 2011, National Fire Academy, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, 2011.
Mensch, A., Braga, G., and Bryner, N. Fire Exposures of Fire Fighter Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, NIST TN 1724, November 2011.
Nazare, S., Davis, R., Peng, J., and Chin, J. Accelerated Weathering of Fire Fighter Protective Clothing: Delineating the Impact of Thermal, Moisture, and Ultraviolet Light Exposures, NIST TN, in review, April 2012.
Putorti Jr, A. D., Amon, F. K., Butler, K. M., Remley, C. A., Young, W. F., Spoons, C. Structural and Electromagnetic Scenarios for Fire Fighter Locator Tracking Systems, NIST TN 1713, September, 2011.
Kent, J., Lawson, R.J., and Putorti, A.D. Performance of RFID Tags in Rough Duty Environments (Structural Fires and Moisture), NIST TN 1700, May 2011.
NIST recommendations for fire fighter duty environment exposure have been incorporated in the 2012 draft document of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1981 Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services.
Based on NIST research including results described in NIST TN 1724, the National Fire Protection Association has prepared an Alert Notice for SCBA Lenses May Deform or Degrade in Severe Fire Fighting Conditions to inform the fire service of the potential effects of certain fire environmental conditions on facepiece lenses in NFPA-compliant SCBAs.The 2013 Edition of NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services NFPA is requiring all current SCBA ensembles to replace the facepiece lens in order to meet new performance requirements based on NIST research including results described in NIST TN 1724.
Standards and Codes:
Project team members are participating in a select number of key standards and codes committees, including:
 This committee is responsible for standards related to the performance of electronic safety equipment for use by fire fighters. This includes current standards on thermal imaging cameras and PASS devices, and future standards for RFID systems, fire fighter locator systems, radio equipment, and hybrid systems such as SCBA facepieces equipped with heads-up displays, thermal imaging cameras, fire environment sensors, and telemetry.
 This committee is responsible for standards related to the performance, selection, care, and maintenance of firefighter SCBA systems.
 This committee is responsible for standards related to the performance, selection, care, and maintenance of firefighter protective ensembles (clothing, etc.).
 This committee is currently cooperating with NFPA committees related to test standards for fire fighter protective ensembles.
Start Date:October 1, 2011
Lead Organizational Unit:el
Related Programs and Projects:
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