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3 things you should do to keep your protective hood healthy

Maintaining a cleaning schedule, avoiding modifications and conducting regular inspections will prolong the life of your protective hood

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Photo/Ohio Department of Commerce

The new class of particulate-blocking firefighting protective hoods must be compliant with the requirements of NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. To be compliant, particulate-blocking hoods must be able to stop particulates ranging between 0.1 and 1.0 microns 90 percent of the time.

Protective hoods that comply with NFPA 1971 will help shield firefighters from harmful fireground particulates, as well as provide thermal protection, but only if the hood is properly maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Take care of your gear so it can take care of you.

How to maintain upkeep for protective hoods

Here are three components of a particulate hood maintenance regime:

1. Keep your particulate hood clean

Clean your hood after every exposure to products of combustion – liquid and particulate – using mild laundry detergent in water that’s not hotter than 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners to clean particulate hoods.

When using a washing machine, ensure that the gravitational forces from the washer’s extractor are between 85 and 100 Gs.

Only wash and dry your protective hood with other protective hoods or other PPE ensemble components, such as a coat or trousers. Washing with other items made of natural fibers, like cotton, can cause fibers to become emmeshed in the hood’s fabric, increasing the potential for flaming over the hood’s surface.

When using a mechanical dryer, tumble dry on a low setting that doesn’t exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Some manufacturers recommend avoiding dry cleaning, due to chemicals used in the process and their purity.

Finally, store your hood only when it is clean, dry and free of contamination. Some manufacturers caution against storing protctive hoods in sunlight because some materials are susceptible to UV degradation.

2. Do not repair, alter or modify your protective hood

Avoid the temptation to alter your hood to accommodate after-market accessories, such as voice amplifiers for your radio. Any after-market alteration, modification, addition or repair will likely void the manufacturer’s original warranty.

3. Inspect and replace your particulate hood

This cleaning and drying, not to mention the stretching and pulling that accompanies every use, may have an impact on your hood’s service life. As such, it’s imperative that you check to ensure your hood properly fits around your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepiece, with no gaps or sags, after every cleaning and drying.

Over time, wear and tear during use and frequent cleaning will eventually reduce the effectiveness of the hood’s performance. Therefore, it is important to keep track of how many times your protective hood is washed and dried, as well as other items of your structural firefighting PPE. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook where you record the date of every washing and drying for each component of your PPE ensemble.

It’s also vitally important to visually check your hood’s particulate-blocking layer for any damage after every washing and drying. Some hoods have an inspection opening in the back hem, which allows you to turn the hood inside out and visually inspect the particulate- blocking layer for damage.

The addition of the particulate-blocking layer has helped shore up the firefighter hood when it comes to preventing firefighter exposure to hazardous particulate matter.

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.

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