Firefighters know that protective "turnout gear" (pants and coats) can save their lives. Yet because there are several different attributes of protective performance, choosing the turnout gear system that best matches desired performance can be complicated. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a software tool this month called ToGS™ ("Turnout Gear Selector"), which helps both manufacturers and buyers decide on the turnout gear systems to design and purchase based on their individual needs.
With ToGS, the user specifies the relative "importance" value placed on each of the performance attributes, including thermal protective performance (TPP), system weight, thickness, stiffness, breathability and outer shell resistance to abrasion, tearing and charring. ToGS starts with default values established in 2005 at a NIST-hosted meeting. All turnout gear systems included in the analysis are then ranked in a bar chart based on how well they score. When the user changes the importance of an attribute, the ranking of turnout gear systems also changes.
An urban fire department that enters multi-story buildings might place relatively high importance on attributes like TPP, system weight, breathability and resistance to charring. A rural fire department that does not have the same needs might place relatively high importance on other attributes like resistance to abrasion and tearing.
Users also can access the underlying performance data for the 41 turnout coat systems, which include nine different outer shells, five moisture barriers, eight thermal liners and seven face cloth materials.
ToGS helps users understand tradeoffs between performance attributes. For example, a better Thermal Protection Performance (TPP) score may be due to more insulation. Therefore, even though TPP is higher, such a system will be heavier and perhaps stiffer. ToGS helps the user take all tradeoffs into account when making decisions.