Home >Many innovations for emergency services personnel at the A+A 2013

Many innovations for emergency services personnel at the A+A 2013

09 September 2013

Emergency services personnel operate in extreme situations whether it is extinguishing a fire, saving lives or subduing the consequences of natural disasters. In order for them to survive a situation unharmed themselves and still be able to provide the best performance possible, suppliers of protective clothing and protective equipment are continuously working on improvements

Trade visitors from the areas of fire brigades, technical relief organisations, or industrial disaster prevention can once again find everything to satisfy their needs on 5 – 8 November at the A+A 2013 in Düsseldorf, the leading international trade fair for personal safety, security and health at work which will accommodate around 1,600 exhibitors. 

Along with suitable materials and wearability, the proper care of protective clothing plays an important role. Above all, complete clothing systems are the subject of focus being concentrated on by developers of suitable protective clothing. "To date, it is principally important to improve wear comfort,” said Jochen Thorns, commander of the Filderstadt Fire Brigade. Just recently, the Hohenstein Institute released the results of a research project they undertook in cooperation with industrial partners such as S Gard Schutzkleidung, Lion Apparel, W. L. Gore & Associates and Sympatex. 

The project had been initiated due to the fact that outerwear was being continuously improved as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) , however the layers of clothing worn underneath had been neglected up until now. "In contrast, for a great while, it has been quite common for the fields of sport and leisure to have pieces of clothing harmoniously tailored to meet functional requirements,” said Dr. Bianca Wölfling, project manager at the Hohenstein Institute. "There is an American study showing that half of all firefighter fatalities in the USA are due to heat stress,” explained Jochen Thorns in turn. Preferably, it should not come to that. In principle, improved respiratory activity supports physical exertion. This is especially necessary when physical performance is limited, to which Thorns points out: "We have established that especially with regard to the voluntary fire brigade, there are more and more comrades whose fitness could be better.” 

Thus, the goal of the cooperative research project was to optimally support the natural cooling function in the body through a quick removal of sweat and at the same time, to achieve a good level of heat insulation. "A firefighter in action can perspire up to 2 litres an hour,” said Dr. Bianca Wölfling. "The ambient temperature and the degree of activity of firefighters is quite diverse, depending upon the type of deployment. The proper balance is to be achieved using a clothing system based on various layers and thicknesses.  

Many complex layers – many complex questions

As the first layer, three newly developed industrial material types were examined. All three proved to be good with regard to their ability to transfer moisture. However, the material type made from cotton was not flame-resistant and therefore, textiles made from PTFE/Aramid and textiles made exclusively from Aramid were given precedence. Both the objective results of analysis and the personal judgement of trial wearers have shown that the moisture and heat management of the newly developed prototypes has improved a great deal from the initial situation of customary items of clothing found on the market. In a second project starting 2014, an analysis is to be made on how the following layers – underwear, tracksuit substitute for sweat transport and insulation, as well as the outerwear that are fire-resistant and possess a warning effect – can be coordinated with each other to optimise management of moisture. 

The results of the development work carried out by the research consortium, "SensProCloth” for a period of three and half years have also been trendsetting. The motivation and basis had to do with the fact that during large-scale disasters, firefighters and emergency services personnel are subject to high levels of pressures and influences that are difficult to evaluate on their own. It happens quite frequently that physical sensations and hazard warnings are not perceived sufficiently enough.

"Only in the rarest of cases do disasters have a single distinct cause. There are generally a great mixture of various reasons. However, physical overload also plays an increasingly significant role,” wrote the Stuttgart firefighters Florian Gödde, chief fire officer, and Martin Wessels, fire division commander, in their article "Research Project ´SensProCloth’ – Sensor Integrated Protective Clothing” (Brandschutz Magazine 3/2012). Furthermore, the article states: "It also deserves mentioning that the increasing overload due to heat accumulation in the protective clothing, which is continually providing better insulation. Frequently, orientation is difficult and locating relief helpers in peril is barely possible.

Sensors detect important vital signs

The objective of "SensProCloth” was the development of a system-integrated, sensory work and protective clothing capable of capturing various factual data and thus communicating it. This includes information on ambient temperature as well as the location or exposure to hazardous materials. The psychological condition of the wearer should be monitored by measuring pulse, respiratory frequency and body temperature. Using this data, the emergency services personnel and operation controllers receive important information enabling them to recognise hazardous situations in due time and prevent them to the greatest extent possible. In an extreme case, a comrade who has had an accident can be located quickly.

In order to detect body temperature for example, the sensors are integrated into underwear; for information on the surrounding area, they are integrated into the protective jacket. "Tests with the ‘Thermo-Men’, meaning a flame impingement at 1.000°C for over 8 seconds as well as operational exercises in a compartment fire simulator by professional firefighters have shown that this protective clothing equipped with sensor technology, electronics and energy supply is suitable for daily routine. It can also be cleaned in a completely normal manner,” said Hansjürgen Horter from the Denkendorf Institute for Textile and Process Engineering (ITV), responsible for coordination of the project. 

Seeing that generally up until now, primarily technical parameters are monitored during firefighting operations requiring respiratory protection, recognition of the "human” factor is of great interest for firefighters and other emergency services personnel in order to avoid accidents. The current method of asking out how a person in action is feeling is inadequate in most cases. Due to their high level of adrenalin, they do not even notice that difficulties are arising. Sensations in stress situations are often perceived in a completely different manner in comparison to everyday life. 

Frequently, cardiovascular problems result due to the extremely high level of stress. The well-insulated protective clothing is actually increasingly taking the blame for heat accumulation. Locating individual firefighters or entire teams can increase safety on account of the fact that the head of operations can judge the situation more clearly and use them to support decision-making. 

New colours are at play

Anyone who looks at the new generation of protective suits for emergency services personnel while making rounds at the A+A 2013 in Düsseldorf will quickly notice a change in colours. In the past two years, many fire brigades have changed their turnout gear which was once blue. Berlin’s 3,500 professional firefighters, as well as 1,500 members of the voluntary fire brigade for example, have received new protective suits made of a synthetic gold-coloured outer material, "PBI Matrix”. It is the result of the further development of material used by the American space agency NASA from the 80s which is already implemented today in the USA, Great Britain and Scandinavia for use in protective firefighting suits.


Similarly, the Amsterdam Fire Brigade has been working since last year in gold or sand colours. Here, the upper layer of the protective suite by the company Lion Deutschland, a company of the LHD Group (Cologne), is made from "Millennia Light” manufactured by the Dutch weaver TenCate. It is combined with a "Gore-Tex Fireblocker” membrane and a heat isolating lining in spacer technology. The additional vapour-permeable, perforated reflex strips were positioned by the manufacturer 3M so that the firefighters can be seen well from all sides. The spacer technology guarantees good insulation at a low weight. The "holes” in the reflex strip provide better vapour permeability. "The Lion V-Force Protective Suit has impressed our trial wearers due to its high level of protection and good wear comfort,” said Paul de Jong, duty officer and project manager for the procurement at Brandweer Amsterdam-Amstelland.

Rent and care maintenance – good service creates added value

Irrespective of the make and colour, proper care and expert repair promotes the long lifespan of protective clothing. "The outerwear must be washed after every use,” said Klaus Hawerkamp of Lion (LHD Group). Even if the machines have been set up and configured at the fire brigade’s by experts, often, washing does not run optimally. Flat textile procedures for example, which are practised by many textile service providers, are especially gentle. 

Protective clothing manufacturers such as Lion or Texport will provide customers with information on their special care and service programmes at the A+A 2013. Under the label "Lion Totalcare” or "Texport Clean and Care”, these providers take on full service tasks such as pick-up, cleaning and impregnation, repair services and return transport of protective clothing. At Texport, a check of visible outer damage and concealed inner damage is carried out using testing equipment operated by trained personnel.


Otmar Schneider, managing director of Texport: "Our service customer does not only receive clean clothing that is ready to wear via direct delivery, but he can also be sure that they are receiving suitable clothing which is compliant with all applicable norms. Furthermore, care and maintenance of each and every piece are documented, which makes it considerably easier to estimate the lifespan of the clothing.”


A+A exhibitor CWS-boco (Dreieich), a textile service provider with over a hundred-year tradition, believes that appropriate treatment of protective clothing according to standards is also seen as one of the challenges in the future. Thomas Becker, responsible for this area at CWS-boco, commented: "Only in this manner can assurance be made that emergency services personnel are really well equipped."

Information on the A+A 2013 exhibitors and their innovations are available online at: http://www.AplusA.de