Firefighting kit has a number of functions; it protects crew members in a wide range of situations and makes them instantly recognisable in an emergency. Replacing your kit at the right time keeps you safe and comfortable, no matter what the shout is for.
According to the UK Home Office, in the last year, 28% of call-outs involved responding to fires, 42% were fire false alarms and 31% were non-fire incidents. Non-fire incidents have increased from 23% of call outs ten years ago.
The five largest categories of non-fire incidents in the last year were road traffic collisions, effecting entry/exit, assisting other agencies, medical incidents and flooding incidents. This demonstrates the breadth of tasks a firefighter might be expected to complete when wearing their kit. In a nutshell, you need to be ready for anything!
Making your firefighting kit last
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves by focusing only on replacement; there are ways of making your firefighting kit last. Inspecting it after every shout and regular cleaning and maintenance will make your kit last as long as possible.
We’ve written useful blog posts on how to inspect and maintain your kit to help fire and rescue services get the most out of their most important investment.
When does turnout kit expire?
Technically there’s not a blanket expiry date for firefighting kit, though manufacturers might specify the lifespan of individual garments. The new British Standard for the inspection, testing, cleaning, decontamination, drying, repairs, replacement and retirement/disposal of firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE) is BS8617. Published in 2019, it recommends that firefighting kit should be replaced at least every ten years.
So the answer to the question ‘How often should I replace my firefighting kit?’ is at least every ten years, according to the British Standard, but there are reasons for not waiting that long.
Should I replace my firefighting kit sooner?
While private fire and rescue services might not face too many call outs, state operated fire and rescue services in England responded to 557,299 incidents in the last year. Of these, 153,957 were fires.
With so much opportunity for wear and tear, it’s inevitable that firefighting kit will reach the point of needing to be replaced.
In some instances, it might simply make economic sense. If a new jacket costs upwards of £200, for example, and has already had £150 invested in repairs, it might be more cost effective to replace the jacket the next time it is damaged instead of paying for another repair. Professional care and maintenance companies will inspect the kit every time it goes for cleaning and should provide advice about when the kit should be condemned as it’s unsafe to wear, or when it makes more economic sense to replace it.
Fit is essential. When the London Fire Brigade replaced its firefighting kit in 2018, Deputy Commissioner Tom George acknowledged that they needed a kit that could support and protect crews in a range of incidents whether fighting fires, freeing people trapped in crashed cars or complex rescues from collapsed buildings.
Firefighting kit must also be retired if it has been contaminated by chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear agents.
For more information, go to www.flame-pro.com