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

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"One of the major objectives of our study was to better understand the role moisture - mostly the sweat from firefighters - plays in transferred and stored heat burns," Barker says. "When moisture accumulates in the turnout suit materials, it has a big effect on the thermal properties of those materials and changes its heat capacity and thermal conductivity. These changes affect its thermal protective insulation and ability to store thermal energy.

"The stored energy test protocol we developed includes having suit test materials pre-conditioned with moisture - similar to the sweat of a firefighter - in order to determine the effect on transferred and stored heat," Barker adds.

Throughout the development process, various stakeholders - including firefighters, suit manufacturers and members of the NFPA - provided feedback and input to NC State's researchers in order to develop a protocol that met the needs of the firefighters, while understanding the challenges and limitations of the manufacturing process. The NFPA is currently reviewing the protocol supplied by NC State's College of Textiles, and will consider adopting this test method as part of the requirements that manufacturers will need their suits to meet in order to have their suits certified as complying with the NFPA standard.

"We know there is no lab test that measures with absolute accuracy what a firefighter encounters, because every fire is a different set of conditions and thermal threats," Barker says. "However, we now have a better understanding of the general causes and mechanisms behind transferred and stored heat, and a test method to measure these effects. This research and recommended testing protocol is a major development that could significantly improve the health and safety for firefighters everywhere."


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Contact: Caroline Barnhill
caroline_barnhill@ncsu.edu
919-515-6251
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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