Company Name: W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.
Headquarters: Elkton, Md.
Signature Product: Moisture Barriers - GORE® CROSSTECH® products
W. L. Gore & Associates understands firefighters need to be protected from the hazardous conditions that they encounter. In addition, a number of NFPA standards and regulations have to be met. All of Gore’s fabrics for structural firefighting exceed NFPA standards and have a high level of durable protection while managing heat stress better in the broad conditions that firefighters encounter.
1. Where did the company name originate from?
Formed on Jan. 1, 1958, in Newark, Delaware by Wilbert (Bill) L. and Genevieve (Vieve) Gore, the company was named after its founder.
2. What was the inspiration behind starting the company?
In 1958, Bill and Vieve Gore started the company in the basement of their home after Bill left his job at DuPont to pursue his belief in the untapped potential of the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Initially, the company focused on applications in the electronic products market. In 1969, Bill and Vieve’s son, Bob Gore, discovered the remarkably versatile polymer expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (or ePTFE), which led the enterprise into inventing GORE-TEX fabrics and a myriad of other new applications as the leader in fluoropolymers.
3. What is the company’s signature product and how does it work?
In the fire and public safety industry, Gore’s signature product is definitely moisture barriers — GORE® CROSSTECH® products. These barriers block water, blood-borne pathogens and common chemicals encountered at the fireground. These barriers exceed NFPA standards for providing protection while maintaining breathability to help manage firefighter heat stress.
4. Why are these products essential to the fire community?
Recent testing has again proven that GORE® moisture barriers enable sweat vapor to escape from firefighters’ turnout gear more easily than competitive barriers do, which in turn manages heat stress better. GORE® moisture barriers provide the best combination of protection and long-lasting breathability, even after multiple heat exposures. This is even more important today as firefighters are wearing their gear properly during overhaul.
5. What has been the biggest challenge that the company has faced?
One of Gore’s corporate values is its commitment to fitness-for-use, which means they ensure that Gore’s products withstand the conditions in which they will be used and the functions for which they will be used. Ironically, Gore’s biggest challenge is explaining why their products so often exceed the NFPA standards. Many people do not realize that NFPA standards set forth the minimum requirements for gear, and these requirements may not necessarily fit the needs for all firefighters.
6. What makes the company unique?
As part of Gore’s commitment to fitness-for-use, the company consistently goes beyond the requirements of the NFPA standards to ensure that they develop the best possible products for their customers. For example, the Total Heat Loss (THL) test is currently the only test required for comfort of turnout gear in the NFPA 1971 standard. This test is performed in an environment similar to a conditioned office space, which is not typical of fireground conditions. Gore exceeds the THL requirements and also tests its barriers in other conditions using two additional test methods — Resistance to Sweat Evaporation (Ret) and Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) — all to ensure that the barriers are consistently breathable in a broad range of conditions while maintaining certified protection against blood and body fluids, and the chemicals specified in the NFPA standard.
7. What do customers like best about Gore’s products?
Gore’s customers know that its products do what Gore says they will do, and that Gore stands behind their products. Before Gore begins designing a new product and throughout the development process, their development team works closely with end users to identify the challenges they face in their jobs such as extreme environments, the ability to move around and carry tools easily, exposure to toxic chemicals, or any combination of situations. And again, Gore focuses on testing to ensure performance as demonstrated by the two new world-class facilities opened in 2016 at the Elkton, Maryland facility. The new environmental chamber can recreate about 95 percent of the environments on the entire earth’s surface, allowing them to evaluate products at a system level in any type of conditions and collect data on the protection provided and comfort of the wearer. The new heat and flame protection lab allows them to precisely measure and analyze a product’s ability to provide the three key elements of burn protection: flame resistance, thermal insulation and thermal stability. All of this makes for reliable and proven products that end users trust to help keep them safe.
8. What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?
Gore’s technical associates get a lot of satisfaction knowing that they help protect those who protect us and help them get home safely by providing high quality product.
9. Does Gore support any charitable organizations within public safety/community? Tell us more.
In addition to Gore’s own research efforts in science, human performance and fire technology, Gore supports multiple research and other organizations in the fire and public safety area. For example, just in the last year, Gore was a key sponsor of the IAFF Cancer Symposium in Orlando and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium in Phoenix. In Canada, Gore also supports the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.
10. Is there any fun fact or trivia that Gore can share with our users?
In the fire and public safety arena, Gore is probably best-known for its GORE® CROSSTECH® products and GORE-TEX outerwear. But in fact, with its focus on PTFE and subsequent discovery of ePTFE, Gore has developed products for use in some of the most extreme environments since its beginning. Two years after its founding, Gore delivered 7.5 miles of underground cable to the city of Denver, Colorado, and only 10 years later Gore cables traveled on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon. In recent years, Gore’s cables have guided NASA’s Mars Rover and Curiosity through space. On Earth, many musicians have enjoyed the use of Elixir® Strings to enhance the sound of their guitars, and Gore’s implantable medical devices are saving and improving the quality of patients’ lives around the world. Gore can say that its products have been all over the universe and back.
11. What’s next for Gore? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?
With the fire service industry’s focus on protection from fireground particulates, Gore recently launched the GORE® Particulate Hood, which was the first hood to be certified to the particulate-blocking hood option of the 2018 edition of NFPA 1971 standard. The response from the fire service community has been very positive. Many departments have adopted the product, and many more are performing wear trials today. Gore looks forward to continuing to help firefighters stay safe by reducing their exposure to fireground particulates and finding new ways to lower their risk.