Thermal Measurements for Fire Fighters' Protective Clothing
James R. Lawson, R Vettori
Thousands of fire fighters are seriously burned each year and many loose their lives while exposed to fire fighting environments. Work is underway at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to identify measurement needs for developing a better understanding of thermal performance for fire fighters' protective clothing and equipment. This research is not only providing insight related to thermal performance measurements, it is addressing important safety issues for the fire fighters that use the equipment. Thermal measurements in protective clothing systems are complex as a result of fabric movement, compression, changes in spacing and garment ease, and the dynamic movement of moisture in protective clothing while it is being used and heated from fire environments. It is documented that the current thermal measurement method used for fire fighter protective clothing product certification is overestimating performance related to the potential for human burn injury. Many of the thermal exposures where fire fighters receive serious burn injuries are much lower than those specified in current test methods. In addition, current test methods do not provide a means to measure performance changes associated with wet garment systems. New test apparatus have been developed for measuring thermal performance of protective clothing systems. A wide range of thermal exposures can be replicated. These test apparatus can measure the thermal performance of protective clothing systems that are dry or wet and also measure performance changes associated with garment compression. This is an overview of measurement issues critical to the development of standards for fire fighters' protective clothing and the safety of fire service personnel. Research efforts addressed in this document have been supported in part by the United States Fire Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.