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Modifications to firefighter PPE

In this video, Gordon Graham highlights the danger of adding unauthorized accessories to personal protective equipment

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for fire service personnel. Today I am talking about making modifications to your personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Let’s face it. Just about every firefighter likes gadgets, and a ton of new ones come out every year. Many of these are designed to attach to your PPE.

But, PPE manufacturers design and build their gear to meet industry standards. Any modification to PPE may violate manufacturer warranties and make the gear non-compliant with standards.

Adding a new clip to hang your light or a strap to hold that extra pair of gloves can make life a little easier for you. But you can accidentally breach parts of the gear that shouldn’t have holes. Even something as simple as sewing your company patch or the American flag on the shoulder can cause problems with the integrity of the gear ensemble.

And then we have helmets. Adding items like flashlights, bands to hold door chocks and other tools, and adding stickers may not seem like a big deal. But lights, chocks, and tools can throw the helmet off balance, and those stickers could be a combustion hazard.

So, what’s the answer? Should everyone avoid adding stuff to their gear? After all, a gadget clip here or a light there can help on the fire scene. Well friends, there is no clear-cut answer to that question. Some departments forbid any modification to issued gear. That type of policy can solve the problem, but it can also harm morale and company pride.

Before allowing any modifications to PPE, the department should contact the gear manufacturer for written confirmation that the desired modification will not void any warranty. Ask for an approved method for applying things like patches.

Finally, individual firefighters should not modify their gear without looking at the department’s policy or checking with a supervisor. Use the pockets, clips, and fasteners that are built into your PPE. Remember, that cool tool you’d like to add could end up damaging the very piece of equipment you expect to protect your life.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.