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Moisture Barrier’s Role in Firefighter Protection

One of the most significant advances in firefighter protection of the past 25 years has been the introduction of a durable, waterproof, breathable moisture barrier into protective clothing.

W.L. Gore & Associates Inc was first to create the concept of keeping emergency responders dry and comfortable on the frontline with the introduction of its renowned Gore-Tex® Fabric in the late 80s. This was followed by the arrival of Crosstech® fabric a few years later, which adds protection from blood-borne pathogens and common chemicals to the core functions of breathability and waterproofness.

Gore Fabrics protect firefighters in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, providing improved levels of comfort, while at the same time reducing the risk of heat stress.

The introduction of Gore’s high performance fabrics created a durable layer in PPE that keeps the wearer dry by preventing water from entering the garment, but allows sweat to travel out the other way. This minimises the build-up of moisture inside the garment and in those extreme conditions that are often experienced by firefighters and emergency responders and in turn reduces the risk of heat stress and burns. That is why Gore’s fabrics are worn by first responders all over the world.

Research shows that the breathable membrane makes a significant contribution to the reduction of heat stress on the fire ground, as well as in a moderate to light duty environment for firefighters, who spend 80 percent of their time carrying out this type of work.

The moisture barrier is in a garment to perform key tasks simultaneously: The first is to prevent firefighters from getting wet from the outside in. The second is to keep the thermal insulation material dry, preventing build-up of body moisture that could reduce the level of protection from scalds. This means that the firefighter is more comfortable wearing their garment and has a slower body core temperature rise.

The pores in the Gore-Tex® and Crosstech® moisture barriers are 20,000 times smaller than a droplet of water but 700 times larger than a molecule of water vapour from perspiration. The fabric is a durable, waterproof barrier that is breathable. Crosstech® fabric provides additional protection from blood borne pathogens and common chemicals. The durability of the fabric ensures that it continues to perform over the lifetime of the garment, delivering the best protection to responders while still satisfying the “best value” philosophy.

The company developed Airlock® Spacer Technology, which is available in both Gore-Tex® and Crosstech® fabrics and uses silicon spacers to create an airspace that acts as a thermal barrier and replaces the heavier fibre version. This increases breathability and freedom of movement for the wearer.

Gore’s technology also protects hands and feet in a wide range of specially developed, high-performance gloves and footwear worn by a range of specialist emergency responders and military personnel.

All Gore Fabrics exceed PPE performance tests. They maintain that level of performance thanks to outstanding resistance to wear and abrasion and an ability to consistently maintain high breathability and waterproofness after exposure to extreme heat. Gore products are renowned for their consistently reliable thermal stability. Gore has developed its own proprietary Gore-Seam® tapes and seam sealing technology and quality assurance system to ensure the waterproof integrity of the garment’s seams.

Companies that make Gore products must comply with Gore manufacturing standards. These standards require the manufacturer to comply with specific quality levels for machinery used in the manufacturing process. Each manufacturer also agrees to allow Gore to test garments to ensure that they meet quality standards for durability and performance.

Gore’s philosophy is that: “our products will do what they say what they will do”. The company’s unique approach combines research, innovation and an unwavering commitment to quality that has resulted in state of the art protective fabrics that are fundamental to the protection of firefighters today, setting the benchmark in their class. Crosstech® and Gore-Tex® products lead the field in waterproof, breathable protection.

For more information, go to www.gore.com

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