firefightersThe ability of protective clothing worn by first responder to limit exposure to hazardous liquids will undergo new testing procedures developed by the Fire Protection Research Foundation and International Personnel Protection, Inc.

The project is funded by the Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO).

“Many different types of protective clothing are required to prevent the penetration of various types of liquids, including hot water, fire ground chemicals, industrial chemicals, blood/body fluids, and even chemical or biological warfare agents,” according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

While requirements exist for characterizing how materials keep these substances from contacting the responder; the industry generally relies on full-scale product testing to assess full garments or ensembles.

Currently, liquid integrity testing is performed by placing clothing on a mannequin and subjected it to surfactant treated water spray from several nozzles over a specified period. The “shower” test focuses on garment design -- particularly for closures and interfaces with other clothing items -- but has also been criticized for being overly rigorous, lacking consistency, and making it difficult to identify failure modes.

The principle effort of the Improved Liquid Integrity Evaluation Techniques for First Responder Ensembles research project is to develop sensors to replace the subjective determinations of liquid penetration made as part of the current test. Research will also be conducted in the project to investigate different parameters related to how the test is conducted and correlate these observations made in simulated field exposures. In addition, test method changes and sensor technology will be validated through an interlaboratory test program. The outcome of Fire Protection Research Foundation work will be recommendations for new test procedures for incorporation into various standards such as NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting and NFPA 1994, Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents.

The project team is being led by International Personnel Protection, Inc., a firm that provides research and expertise in the field of personal protective equipment and other areas related to worker safety and health. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is a member of the team and will be coordinating independent external reviews of project work. Also on the team is Intertek Testing Services of Cortland, N.Y., a provider of a substantial amount of the testing that supports certification of first responder protective clothing and equipment, including “shower” testing. The research project will be completed over a 20-month period.