A firefighter’s heroic actions depend on more than just bravery and training. For instance, personal protection equipment is an essential aspect of the job and helps ensure firefighters stay safe while in action. But how long does firefighting PPE clothing and gear last? And what do firefighters do when they need new equipment?
Firefighting Equipment Is Extremely Reliable
It’s important to understand how reliable firefighting gear truly is before we dive into the life span of various firefighting equipment. Fire-safety PPE is often known as “bunker gear,” and it’s practically a suit of armor; with proper maintenance and care, bunker gear can last up to 10 years!
That allows firefighters to worry less about chemical and fire exposure and instead focus on their duties. Yet, like all forms of PPE, repeated use in adverse environments causes natural wear and tear, rendering gear unsafe.
Helmets and Related Face Protection
According to NFPA 1851 standards (which cover the selection and care regulations for fire-safe gear), firefighting helmets last precisely one decade. After 10 years from the manufacturing date, firefighting helmets go into what’s known as a “mandatory retirement,” meaning that further use is unlawful and negligent.
This retirement is enforced regardless of the condition of the helmet. However, it’s essential that firefighters replace or repair damaged hardhat components when necessary; allowing a damaged helmet to degrade without proper action puts the well-being of firefighters in greater danger.
Jackets, Pants, and Boots
Aside from a firefighter helmet, fire-safety jackets, pants, and boots are the most essential components of a proper PPE ensemble. According to NFPA 1851 standards, most of this gear can last for a decade. However, most manufacturers of these items set a life expectancy of around 5 to 7 years. And strict regulations within the industry demand frequent cleanings and maintenance, further wearing down fabrics and other materials.
As such, most of these items are re-inspected following 10 laundering cycles to determine functionality and condition. Rips can be repaired, but significant damage may require a forced retirement for the gear. Firefighting footwear might last a few years, depending on use and the environment. For instance, wildland firefighting boots need replacement every few months due to frequent exposure to heat and fire.
Whether you’re a firefighter yourself or simply curious about the ins and outs of this job, knowing how long firefighting PPE clothing and gear lasts gives you a better appreciation of the tools they use every day. When firefighters do require replacements, they’re often supplied new gear through their department, while others purchase items through verified manufacturers.