By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus
If you ask most firefighters what element of their structural firefighting ensemble, their PPE, that they struggle with the most, the most popular answer would likely be: Firefighting gloves. Getting the proper fit initially is one challenge and the other is doffing, and then having to don them again once they’ve become wet. And who hasn’t had difficulty finding a dropped glove in the dark?
Those are just two firefighting glove improvements that Pro-Tech 8 has made with the introduction of its newest glove, the Pro-Tech 8 Vision, a better fitting glove with greater dexterity and – for the first time – a unique glow strip that’s right on the glove. Not only will the glow strip help a firefighter locate a dropped glove in the dark, it can be a significant safety improvement by enabling firefighters to locate one another.
SOME FIREFIGHTING GLOVE BASICS
Every firefighter is looking for firefighting gloves that (1) provide a good fit along with good dexterity and (2) provide good thermal protection. Let’s look at those two requirements in reverse order.
Firefighting glove manufacturers work to provide firefighters thermal protection from two hazards:
1. Protection from compression burn (when picking up a hot object).
2. Protection from radiant heat (primarily on the back of the hand).
Those glove manufacturers use a three-layer approach to provide that thermal protection using:
- An outer shell (e.g., leather, PBI, Kevlar, Nomex and combinations).
- A moisture barrier (e.g., Gore-Tex).
- A thermal barrier (e.g., padding designed to trap air and provide insulation).
A NEW GLOVE FROM PRO-TECH
The newest firefighting glove from Pro-Tech 8, the Pro-Tech 8 Vision Firefighting Glove, is compliant with the specifications for firefighting gloves found in NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (2018 Edition) and more.
The glove design engineers at Pro-Tech 8 have incorporated the latest technology in producing the Pro-Tech 8 Vision firefighting glove with features like:
A waterproof outer shell of flame-resistant water buffalo hide that’s stronger, more durable, and more flexible than the cowhide used in many other firefighting gloves. The water buffalo leather grain is particularly distinctive for its wider and thicker fibers and its epidermal layer is three times thicker than cowhide, which makes it stronger and more durable. Water buffalo leather is famous for its durability. It also has great elasticity and strength, making it resistant to pressure and flame.
Water buffalo leather is completely natural and has breathability much like human skin. It has the power to release moisture and dry faster than cowhide. Because of these features, it can be adapted to any temperature and is always comfortable to wear, no matter the season.
Gloves made of water buffalo leather remain structurally sound and do not lose their shape or stretch out with repeated use. Unlike fabric materials that wear out over the years, water buffalo leather only gets more comfortable as it ages (like your favorite baseball glove, remember?).
A multi-layer design of using Kevlar, Nomex and Modacrylic fibers that, together with the outer shell, provides an increased level of thermal protection from both compression and radiant heat burns.
Flexible finger sidewalls, using Kevlar and Nomex, that reduce bulk where there’s less need for thermal protection but a greater need for better dexterity. Together with stitched down palm layers (using high-burst Kevlar thread), the Pro-Tech 8 Vision glove provides that increased level of dexterity, particularly for gripping.
Other features that make the Pro-Tech 8 Vision an outstanding firefighting glove include Pro-Tech’s signature eight-layer knuckle guard (a combination of 100-percent Kevlar that’s fused with silicone carbide); a fully knitted 100% modacrylic inner liner and leather pull tabs that make it easier to get the gloves on and off; and that glow stripe across the knuckles – that absorbs, stores, and emits light for hours – for improved visibility at night and in low light conditions.
As with Pro-Tech’s entire line of firefighting gloves, the Pro-Tech 8 Vision gloves use a triple certified Porelle PTFE moisture barrier that wicks moisture away from your skin better and provides enhanced chemical and viral protection (See Figure 1).
WEARING IS BELIEVING
I had the opportunity to give the Pro-Tech 8 Vision firefighting glove a “test fit.” First off, the gloves look more like popular extrication gloves than traditional firefighter gloves. And they’re practically as lightweight as extrication gloves!
Donning the gloves was equally comparable to the donning of extrication gloves. The leather pull tabs are a particularly useful feature because they “pull” from the center of the glove for a much more even pull onto your hands.
And the level of dexterity right out of the package was incredible. I put on a glove on my non-dominant hand and then gripped a #2 wooden pencil and tried as hard as I could to pull the pencil out of my grip with my dominant hand, without success.
GETTING THE PROPER FIT
Getting the proper fit for a glove should be the primary factor when selecting firefighting gloves. Yet, in their quest to achieve the greatest degree of dexterity, too many firefighters select gloves that fit too tight because they believe that a tighter glove equates to greater dexterity.
But choosing a glove that’s too tight compromises the level of thermal protection afforded by a glove. Gloves that are too tight compress the thermal barrier resulting in less trapped air, less insulation from heat, and greater potential for heat to be transmitted to the hand.
Other the other hand (no pun intended), some firefighters select a glove with a loose fit so they can don and doff them more easily. But gloves that are too loose tend to decrease a firefighter’s level of dexterity and is frequently cited by firefighters as an excuse for why they removed their gloves in the hazard area (due to being unable to manipulate the controls on their portable radio or SCBA console).
Firefighters can obtain the proper fit for their firefighting gloves by following the guidance provided in NFPA 1971 that addresses glove fit from a more objective perspective by providing a process for more accurately measuring of a firefighter’s hand and a sizing chart for selection of the appropriately sized glove based on that hand measurement.
MEASURING YOUR HANDS FOR THE CORRECT GLOVE FIT
For their firefighting gloves to be labeled as being NFPA 1971 compliant, glove manufactures must label their products using NFPA 1971’s sizing metrices.
To help firefighters in getting the best fit possible, NFPA 1971 uses two measurements to assist firefighters in obtaining the proper sized glove. The first measurement is the length of your index finger; the second is the width of your hand as measured across your knuckles (Figure 2).
Index Finger Length: Using a straight ruler, measure your index finger length to the nearest 1 mm (1/16-inch) from the tip of the index finger to the base of the finger as shown in Figure 1.
Hand Width: Next, measure the width of your hand to the nearest 1 mm (1/16inch) across the metacarpals (knuckles) on the back of the hand from the second metacarpal to the fifth metacarpal using a set of calipers, or similar measuring device, as shown in Figure 2.
Finally, take your two measurements and plot them on the graph (Figure 3), with index finger measurement on the x-axis and hand breadth on the y-axis. For custom-sized gloves (e.g., individuals with smaller or larger hands based on the measuring criteria), the gloves must be labeled with the closest applicable size and have the word “Custom” added, e.g., 64C (Custom) or 82C (Custom).
Looking at the glove sizing chart, you can see that within each glove size there is latitude for both index finger length and hand width measurements.
So, before looking at the other features of a firefighting glove, pay attention to getting the glove that fits you exactly right, because the glove that fits best is going to perform best. Having done that, you’ll truly appreciate all the features of the new Pro-Tech 8 Vision firefighting glove.