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Don’t ditch your helmet for rescue missions – just find the right one

Your structural firefighting helmet is basically your best friend on the fireground. But here’s why you should look at a sleeker model for certain situations.

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MSA’s V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet packages comfort and protection into a low profile helmet that can be your go-to for rescue and other situations where your structural firefighting helmet may be too bulky.


By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

If there’s one piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) for firefighting that most firefighters are passionate about, it’s their helmet. Depending upon where they work or volunteer, there are many different styles of helmets that firefighters prefer to use in protecting their “gourd.” There is also significant debate about helmet styles and features and whether innovation or tradition should rule.

But regardless of the style helmet, they all have one thing in common: They’re designed for the particular hazards associated with interior structural firefighting (As specified in NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting).

But your job (or avocation if you’re a volunteer firefighter) description doesn’t just include interior structural firefighting, does it? You can be called upon to deliver any number of services, such as:

  • Suppressing a fire in a wildland urban interface (WUI) area of your community, which is a growing concern for firefighters in many U.S. communities as residential development continues to spread into wildland areas.
  • Extricating a severely injured patient from a motor vehicle crash (MVC).
  • Conducting a confined rescue of a contractor who suffered a heart-attack while working in a utility tunnel.

To be honest, those are only a glimpse of the services that you and your department are called for, right?

Now think of the many different hazards posed by those kinds of non-firefighting tactical operations. How well can your structural firefighting helmet—which is primarily designed to protect your head from blows from above and shed water—protect you from hazards like:

  • Heat stress from the heat build up while working at an MVC or hiking into a WUI fire site.
  • Inhibiting your mobility to work inside a vehicle or in a confined space.
  • Side impacts to the head while working at the scene of a motor vehicle crash when a secondary crash occurs or working in heavy brush.

How many times has the rear bill of your structural firefighting helmet become your worst enemy while working in those kinds of spots? How many times do you see multiple firefighter helmets sitting on top of a car while the firefighters are working inside the vehicle? My point exactly!

Each of those tactical operations have their own set of risks for firefighters, but these are risks that can be minimized using a safety helmet that’s better suited for the job.

The V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet from MSA

Now the good folks at MSA have developed what just might become the “Swiss army knife” of helmets when it comes to protecting the firefighter wearing it from those types of risk.

Whether you’re working above or below grade, fighting a wildland or WUI fire, or working an MVC on the highway, the V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet has been designed to be your “go to” helmet.

The V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet is a helmet that’s comfortable, breathable and easy to wear in a stylish low-profile hard hat design. Its Fas-Trac III Pivot Ratchet Suspension is a big part of this helmet’s ability to give you a high level of comfort, the adjustability you want and the range of motion you need. Plus, its field replaceable 4-point chinstrap gives you multiple adjustment points that enable you to customize your fit for even more comfort.

The V-Gard H1’s non-contact foam liner maximizes air flow and breathability to provide the cooling and hygiene you want and need (especially on those extended operations on a hot day). It also comes equipped with a high-performance moisture wicking headband that uses breathable foam and Velcro attachments (another option that makes in-the-field replacement easier).

This helmet comes in both vented options for optimal air flow and cooling (compliant with ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014. EN 12492:2012) and non-vented options for use in electrical applications where Class E certification is needed (Compliant with ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014, EN 397:2012).

More than that, the V-Gard H1 gives you a helmet that has a complete above-the-neck platform for all applications with its patent-pending “push-button” accessory attachment rail and universal lighting clips that allow for quick installation and removal of accessories such as headlamps, eye shields and goggles.

The V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet comes in a variety of colors from high-visibility yellow to gray that can be used to identify crews at a glance, bring attention to firefighters working in high-traffic areas or simply look stylish atop your head.

There are times when you need a helmet that will protect you from the hazards of interior structural firefighting and times when such a helmet is more than you need. At an affordable price, the MSA V-Gard H1 Safety Helmet is a good solution for those situations where protection, comfort and compactness in a helmet are key.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.