The Good, the Bad and the PPE

Fires are more dangerous than ever; firefighters must take advantage of the personal protective equipment they are equipped with

Updated July 7, 2017

When joining the fire service, the first thing a probie can't wait to do is put on a set of firefighter gear and get it dirty. We are taught early on how important it is to wear our full personal protective equipment when on the job – but the latest technology is working both with and against us.

Modern PPE allows us to go deeper into buildings for longer periods of times, but can give a false sense of invincibility. With this Superman-like feeling, we can find ourselves in situations like never before.

Synthetic oil-based materials being used nowadays are increasing the overall temperature and speed of growth rates of fires, but our new advanced PPE is not allowing us to sense the extreme heat until it is too late.

We are hearing reports that firefighters are missing the early signals of flashovers far too often; advancing too deep into compromised buildings, as well as disrespecting their safety equipment by purposely burning it or smoking it up.

But what the following videos is reveal is even more troublesome. Why is it that we know fires are more dangerous than ever yet we fail to take advantage of the personal protective equipment we are equipped with?

Fires are the obvious time to don PPE, but let's not forget to gear up for odor and gas reports, accident scenes, rescue calls and quite frankly any time you get on your rig or during training around the house.

Dangers of improper PPE usage

The following video highlights the dangers of not being fully protected. Granted this is an older clip, but it clearly shows we should always be on our toes and expect the unexpected: 

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As you saw from the clip, these firefighters were making an exterior attack on what seemed to be a straightforward job until the gas cylinder inside exploded.

Check out the next video of a fire department operating at a motor vehicle accident. One of the most alarming things in this is the lack of PPE on the firefighters extricating the victims. The following clip should serve as a reminder of the common dangers at such incidents – explosion, sharp metals, body fluids and cutting hazards:

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The next video reveals to us a common problem in firefighting. Once the fire is out, visually we tend to take our guard down. We take off layers of bunker gear and fail to remember the conditions are still dangerous. We also need to remember that this is the period when the highest levels of carbon monoxide exist; check out the following clip:

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Finally, here is a video that sums up what I like to call the "Superman syndrome." What makes things worse in this video is that this is a training session. It shows that not only do many of us feel like we are invincible, but that we are being trained to think and operate that way.

Take a look for yourself in the following clip:

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Review your department procedures and definitions of what constitutes full PPE, and ask yourself how well those procedures are being enforced. Utilize NFPA 1403 for specific regulations on required PPE for specific firefighting levels.


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