The Cost to Outfit a Firefighter.....
In addition to standard Northshore Firefighter uniforms and badges the NorthShore Fire District is required to outfit each Firefighter with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to lessen the risks encountered by Firefighters while engaging in suppressing fires. All gear must meet current Federal and State Fire standards.
There are two different types of turnouts (also known as PPE clothing kits). One kit is specific for structure fires and another kit used in fighting wildland fires.
Besides a radio, the general PPE items for structure fires that are Issued to every firefighter are: gloves, boots, pants, coat, hood, and helmet. Additionally, inside a structure fire the firefighter would need a flashlight and a SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) air pack. The helmet provides protection from falling objects and protecting the overall head of the firefighter. Under the helmet they now where a hood, which provides protection of the lower part of the head, neck and face.
The Turnout Coat and Pants are made of Nomex a material that is fire resistant and is constructed of three (3) layers (an outer shell, moisture barrier and a thermal barrier). They are usually heat resistant up to certain temperatures and do not allow moisture in or out.
Gloves provide protection for picking up hot objects, crawling around on the floor, along with handling tools.The boots are steel toed boots to protect from falling or sharp objects along with water.
The SCBA tank and Mask provides air for the firefighter to go in to the burning structure where it is overcome with smoke, essentially this is the air for the firefighter to breath, the Mask allows the firefighter to breath the supplied air and not the smoke or other nasty byproducts in the room.
Since Northshore is an All-Risk Agency and our district has a great deal of Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), our crews carry with them at all times, not only their gear for Structure Fires, but also their Wildland fire PPE kits as well. Wildland Gear consisting of pants and jackets made from Nomex (special fire-resistant material), a pack with fire shelter, leather gloves and boots, a helmet with shroud and goggles.
Although some of the gear is named the same from Structure to Wildland fire types, the gear itself is very different, so the same boots, gloves, etc… do not cross-over as they are made from different materials for the type of exposure that each type of fire event creates for the firefighter.
For Wildland fire the hardhat and goggles provide protection from falling objects along with general protection of the head and eyes, the shroud also helps protect the head from heat and smoke to a certain level. The Nomex coat and pants are flame-resistant material and has a thermal protection while the Leather gloves will provide some protection from the heat, the natural environment, and allows the fire fighter to grip on tools. The boots provide protection from the heat and natural environment as well as ankle support, since often the firefighter may be traversing rough terrain. Each Firefighter will carry a pack that has some tools and supplies in it, but the most important thing that is attached to their pack is the Fire Shelter – this is the last resort for a firefighter or crew that has been overtaken by fire. Essentially, this is a large aluminum foil shelter that protects up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
As you can readily see the cost to outfit a firefighter is not insignificant. For just one firefighter, besides their normal Northshore uniforms, it costs $11,107 per firefighter to have just one set of each type of PPE gear required for them to engage in either a Structure or Wildland Fire. Ideally, the firefighter should have two sets of wildland fire and one structure fire set at a minimum. The shelf life for most PPE clothing items is 10 years. Although, even new gear that is subject to a serious fire event can require immediate replacement. Northshore is not usually capable of supplying firefighters with a second set of turnouts, and most of our firefighters take very good care of their kits in order to extend their use beyond the 10-year service life.
Our district does have one Turnout Extractor (which is an extremely heavy-duty washer) that will clean PPE clothing; however, there is only one across the entire district so not convenient or always available for big events, but still is heavily used by the team, which puts a lot of wear and tear on equipment that is already years old.
As you can see these are not one-time expenses but on-going as gear wears out or gets damaged in a fire, equipment becomes obsolete as technology changes and new fire standards are adopted. Even with limited the gear that is purchased, there is still a substantial need to have the equipment in our stations that will enable our firefighters to be able to clean their gear properly too.
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