Trends in PPE: Advancement Keeps Firefighters and First Responders Safe

As VP of Product Innovation and Strategy at Fire-Dex, I think it is critical to continue designing health-conscious innovations to reduce heat stress among first responders within the fire service industry.


Advancements in technology have allowed manufacturers to continue developing innovative PPE solutions to meet the specific needs of emergency responders across the globe. From the development of particulate blocking hoods to alternative PPE options, manufacturers have invested research towards creating better solutions for the modern needs of first responders.

With an increase in non-fire emergencies, donning the appropriate PPE is vital to the overall health of the firefighter or emergency professional responding. It’s important to consider that structural firefighting PPE is designed specifically to protect firefighters from the thermal, physical, and other unique hazards of interior structural firefighting. Donning structural gear on non-fire emergencies can lead to stress on the body while contributing to cross-contamination. That’s why the innovations in PPE by manufacturers are pivotal in reducing heat stress and the spread of contaminants.

As communities continue to evolve, many fire departments are experiencing a high volume of non-fire calls. To meet this demand, manufacturers have begun offering single-layer alternative PPE garments to mitigate the risks of developing heat stress. Wearing this lighter gear as an alternative to turnouts on calls that don’t require the same amount of thermal protection like motor vehicle accidents, emergency medical calls and confined space rescue, can help the firefighter maintain their body’s core temperature and prevent them from becoming unnecessarily overheated. Alternative PPE also provides versatile protection during EMS and wildland emergencies while making them easily identifiable to the public when on scene.

In addition to the recent focus on lighter, more breathable PPE options, manufacturers are also finding new ways to protect against fire ground carcinogens with durable protection for the highly absorptive areas of the skin with “particulate” blocking hoods. Particulates are microscopic particles that are present in smoke and soot. Many are known carcinogens and are potentially harmful when absorbed into the skin. The areas surrounding the jaw, face, and neck are extremely permeable compared to other areas of the body and create a greater risk for carcinogen absorption. With particulate blocking hoods, firefighters increase their protection against these potentially carcinogenic particles and other harmful toxins.

The manufacturing industry will continue to pivot its focal point on developing innovative PPE as the fire industry evolves. Teaching firefighters the importance of wearing the correct PPE during a call is only the beginning towards reducing the chances of heat stress and cardiac arrest amongst firefighters.

Todd Herring began his journey at Fire-Dex in September of 2015 as part of the acquisition of TECGEN. With over 20 years of experience in the protective textile industry, Herring was soon promoted to Director of Marketing and Product Development in August 2016. Gaining the title of Vice President of Product Innovation and Strategy in 2021, he currently leads the newly created Product Innovation and Strategy team. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Textile Engineering from NC State University.

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