When a fire emergency call comes through, it's time to suit up for battle. Each element of a firefighter's bunker gear is crucial in protecting them against burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries on site. Firefighting hoods with particulate protection are arguably one of the most critical gear components.
What Is a Particulate Blocking Firefighting Hood?
Firefighter hoods with particulate protection consist of two breathable layers, helping to block out harmful particles and protect the firefighter's head, face and neck. These layers are either a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane or a nanofiber-based nonwoven fabric to ensure the ultimate flame resistance on the fire ground. Firefighter hoods have come a long way since their invention in 1914, when they featured a canvas hood, tube and wet sponge to filter the air. New technology in today's versions enables firefighters to perform at their best despite heat stress. With new research identifying the link between contaminants on the fire ground and cancer, the importance of a particulate blocking firefighting hood is evident.
Prioritize Safety for the Head, Face and Neck
Physical fitness is a key aspect of any firefighting role, so firefighters must protect all limbs and joints. However, the head, face and neck are particularly important.
- Head safety: As the head houses the brain, proper head protection is essential to keep the center of intellectual and nervous activity functional.
- Face safety: The face comprises the eyes, nose, ears and mouth, meaning the face is the site of most sensory activity, making it a crucial body area to protect.
- Neck safety: Even though all areas of the body absorb combustion products, studies show the neck is more susceptible. Soot particles are most likely to collect here.
Particulate blocking firefighting hoods surround the head, keeping the vulnerable areas safe. The long bib also protects the upper jaw and neck area, which are particularly sensitive to soot and smoke particles. The hood's design ensures it fits comfortably under the helmet, so there is no interference with mobility. The lightweight fabric also means sounds are audible, enabling firefighting teams to hear orders and respond urgently.
Protect Your Team From Airborne Particulates
Particle matter is the combination of liquid droplets and solid particles that pollute the air. These particles are present to some extent in all environments, not just on the scene of a fire. However, firefighters are at greater risk of inhaling these substances and are more likely to experience health issues, such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nonfatal heart attacks
- Irritation of the airways
- Restricted lung function
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Premature death in patients with heart or lung disease
The United States Environmental Protection Agency recognizes two particle pollution categories:
- PM10: These inhalable particles have diameters of 10 micrometers or less.
- PM2.5: These fine inhalable particles have diameters of 2.5 micrometers or less.
With a diameter of about 70 micrometers, the average human hair is approximately 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
The fabric is the key to understanding how protective hoods prevent airborne particles. Particulate blocking firefighting hoods are made from a PTFE membrane or a nanofiber-based nonwoven fabric. The International Fire Fighter Magazine provides a helpful breakdown of how these two materials block toxic particulates:
- PTFE membrane: This microporous film features tiny pores, allowing air through but making it impossible for particles to pass through the material due to their larger size.
- Nanofiber-based nonwoven fabric: This material features a maze-like structure of continuous nanofiber filaments, which trap smoke particles on contact.
Prevent Higher Cancer Risks
Firefighters respond to forest fires, burning buildings, vehicle fires and many other hazardous situations. The variety of fire emergencies means different materials are present onsite, exposing firefighters to various harmful chemicals daily. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies these combustion products into three groups:
- Group 1: These products are carcinogenic to humans.
- Group 2A: These products are probably carcinogenic to humans.
- Group 2B: These products are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
These findings suggest firefighters are frequently exposed to carcinogenic substances, putting them at a higher risk of developing cancer. A global study of over 80,000 firefighter participants supports this claim, as experts determined professionals in this field are 9% more likely to receive a cancer diagnosis and 14% more likely to die from cancer compared to other occupations.
One way to mitigate this risk is to use a protective hood to reduce exposure to particulates through inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. In addition, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recommends you wash and store your hood properly to maintain hood efficacy.
Here's how to wash your hood correctly:
- Clean your protective hood after each fire according to the NFPA-certified manufacturer's instructions.
- Wash your hood with a designated firehouse machine, not at home or a public laundromat.
Ensure you store your hood correctly by following these steps:
- Allocate a space in the firehouse for hoods and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Keep living and sleeping areas free from contamination by not wearing your hoods in these zones.
- Transport clean and dirty hoods in a PPE bag or airtight container.
As a last point of importance, firefighting teams should check hoods and other PPE for damage and destroy or retire items if necessary.
Find the Right Particulate Blocking Hood for You
Bunker Gear Specialists offer two revolutionary hoods for the ultimate protection on the fire ground. Both options meet NFPA 1971-2018 certifications and have shoulder inserts for added protection. In addition, these hoods measure 19 inches in length, ensuring a wider protective area.
The Majestic Fire Apparel Pacci Hood - Black P84 is a favorite, as the long protective bib ensures a greater protection area without restricting movement. It's made from P84/Lenzing fabric, which is flame-resistant and durable after repeated washings.
An equally effective option is the Majestic Fire Apparel Pacci Hood - White Nomex. This lightweight fabric hood offers the same resistance to heat and flames, making it an essential and cost-effective part of your bunker gear.
As a leading provider of top-quality bunker equipment in Louisiana, our team has the expertise to help you optimize your fire and safety equipment. By offering superior safety gear repair, maintenance and cleaning services, we ensure your team is always ready for action. Contact an expert today to discuss the best option for your team's needs.