How Cy-Fair VFD's new gear reduced firefighter heat stress and recovery time
The department improved firefighter recovery time and decreased the incidence of heat stress with versatile new gear from the TECGEN PPE brand
By FireRescue1 Staff
Background: Located in the greater Houston area, the Cy-Fair Volunteer fire department serves a population of over 400,000 residents spread over approximately 180 square miles. With 12 stations and services that include EMS, dispatching and fire suppression, they are one of the largest multiservice fire departments in North America.
The department responds to nearly 25,000 calls per year with a staff of 200 full- and part-time employees and 350 volunteer firefighters. With an area that ranges from farmland to suburban neighborhoods and light and heavy commercial development, they are required to perform a wide variety of duties that requires them to use wildland fire gear as well as rescue gear on a regular basis.
Problem: In the summer months, the heat and humidity in the Houston area can be unforgiving. The heat index routinely hits 105˚F or more. Traditional bunker gear is made specifically for thermal protection, not for breathability.
In the heat and humidity of a Texas summer, gear that lacks breathability can cause tremendous heat stress for firefighters. Recovery time after incidents also increases in the hot months.
In addition, the varied nature of the community they serve, from rural to suburban, wildland and rescue, means that the Cy-Fair VFD needed gear that could make that transition while still affording excellent protection.
They needed an alternative to bunker gear that would provide protection without putting firefighters at undue risk of heat-related ailments, and it had to be comfortable enough to wear for hours.
Solution: The Cy-Fair VFD needed gear that would meet their needs not just now but 10 to 20 years down the road, as the community they served continued to change and develop. To accomplish this, they worked with the TECGEN PPE brand to provide gear that would meet all of their needs.
After a series of trials, TECGEN gear exceeded the specifications originally set by the Cy-Fair VFD. TECGEN PPE is dual-certified for wildland fire as well as rescue, so it was able to serve the department’s needs in both applications. In addition, the ease of use of the TECGEN gear was notable, allowing volunteers to easily slip it on over their clothes. The lighter, less cumbersome TECGEN gear was more breathable, and thus more comfortable and easily adapted to many of the types of calls the department made.
Results: The results of adopting the TECGEN garments were seen immediately. The recovery times for firefighters after calls were reduced. There were also fewer reports of heat stress in both rescue and wildland environments when the TECGEN gear was used.
Beyond the benefits to individual firefighters, there were other benefits. Due to the use of the TECGEN garments, there was less wear and tear on the much more expensive structural gear that might have been used in situations where the versatile TECGEN gear was now used. The department expects to save money long term by extending the life of their structural gear.
“Overall, the gear is a big improvement over the old ones, especially in the summer weather,” said Steven Witt, Assistant Chief #34, Cy-Fair VFD.
*TECGEN is a registered trademark of INVISTA and used with permission. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the publisher and/or the editor of this publication and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of INVISTA or the TECGEN brand.