High performance PPE rolled out to 30,000 firefighters across the UK

A new high performance PPE kit has been rolled out to over 30,000 firefighters across the country as a result of a collaborative framework led by Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS).

KFRS took the lead role of a joint partnership involving 11 other fire and rescue services in the UK, to source a modern and functional uniform that is accessible to crews from 24 authorities, with more expected to join.

The redesigned set, which is due to officially come into force from 9 January 2020, was specifically selected for its suitability for the various roles and activities faced by today’s firefighters.

Scott Pearce, KFRS’ PPE Manager, said, “When selecting the new PPE, we wanted to ensure the operational specifications were of an extremely high standard for crews.

“After a thorough consultation process, we chose garments which boast unique ergonomic performance features, excellent thermal and radiant heat protection, action pleats for added mobility and a moisture management system that helps to keep the wearer drier.”

Key features include: a lightweight XFlex structural coat and trousers with improved mobility and additional thermal protection; a redesigned fire hood with three breathable layers that will help to avoid overheating; a new hi-vis rescue coat with Gore-Tex laminated lining; a layered approach set for operations that may require different levels of protection and a potential change of role; two sets of gloves, including a rescue pair with a reinforced secure-grip and a touch finger ability that allows the person to operate touch-sensitive screens; and a comfortable helmet, with an integrated torch, that can withstand high mechanical loads and temperatures of more than 300 degrees.

There are also plans for extra lightweight urban search and rescue coat and trousers, designed for non-structural fire fighting and maximum mobility in confined spaces. The trousers and coat can be zipped together to form a one-piece. The set comes with two pairs of boots, safety gloves and a MSA F3-Xtrem helmet.

To ensure every member of the crew benefits from a good fit, all of the garments are available in a wide range of sizes for both men and women.

A specially chosen technical team decided the specifications and characteristics of the PPE over a two-year selection process. The panel included representatives from other fire and rescue services involved in the project, as well as union officials.

Chris Colgan, Assistant Director for Operational Response and senior lead for the national initiative, said, “This is has been an extensive and thorough project, which KFRS has been proud to steer.

“The end result is a high performance PPE set that will enhance the safety and efficiency of our firefighters that is also cost effective, with crews across the country wearing the same uniform.”

During the development and procurement stage, 23 volunteers with a diverse mix of physical profiles trialled the full range while undertaking a variety of typical activities, such as basic operations, road traffic crashes, ladder climbing and full-scale fires. At the end of the process, Bristol Uniforms was selected as the preferred supplier for the top-to-toe PPE, which fire and rescue services can order based on their operational needs.