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NC State develops new test method to measure stored heat in firefighter suits
Date:4/14/2009

For decades, researchers have evaluated the thermal performance of protective clothing worn by firefighters. A particular area of current interest is how to address the burns received by firefighters when they are not directly in contact with fire - called stored heat burns. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a testing apparatus and measurement protocol that allow firefighter suits to be evaluated for their ability to prevent and minimize stored heat burns.

"You can compare the burn to when you sit close to a fireplace, and then press down on your jeans and you can feel the heat," says Dr. Roger Barker, professor of textile engineering chemistry and science, and director of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center (T-PACC). "Firefighters are getting burns without ever coming in direct contact with the flames. It is a serious issue."

Barker and his colleagues were contacted to develop and evaluate this new test method for stored heat measurement in a two-phase study. During the first phase, sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Barker and his team developed a laboratory testing apparatus to conduct the "stored energy test" which measures transferred and discharged heat in turnout suit materials. The second phase, sponsored by the National Fire Protection Research Foundation, involved using that apparatus to test a variety of firefighter suits and develop a database that will facilitate a new national standard that firefighter suits are measured against and certified.

All firefighter turnout suits are made of three layers - an outer shell, moisture barrier and thermal liner. There are many different combinations of fabrics and barriers used, and reinforcements and reflective trim are attached to the outer shell. Regardless of the combination of materials used, suits must go through a battery of tests to meet the standard set by the National Fire Protection Association, or NF
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Contact: Caroline Barnhill
caroline_barnhill@ncsu.edu
919-515-6251
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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