New effort underway to investigate and improve liquid integrity testing of protective clothing

New effort underway to investigate and improve liquid integrity testing of protective clothing worn by first responders
Fire Protection Research Foundation to support project

June 19, 2013 — The Fire Protection Research Foundation is collaborating on a new project being led by International Personnel Protection, Inc. to develop new procedures to improve how barrier protective clothing for first responders is evaluated when limiting exposure to hazardous liquids. This project is funded by the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) of the Department of the Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO).

Many different types of protective clothing are required to prevent the penetration of various types of liquids, including hot water, fire ground chemicals, industrial chemicals, blood/body fluids, and even chemical or biological warfare agents. Requirements exist for characterizing how materials keep these substances from contacting the responder; the industry generally relies on full-scale product testing to assess full garments or ensembles. Currently, liquid integrity testing is performed on clothing that is placed on a mannequin and subjected to surfactant treated water spray from several nozzles over a specified period. The “shower” test as it has commonly been called has focused attention on garment design, particularly for closures and interfaces with other clothing items, but has also been criticized for being overly rigorous, lacking consistency, and making it difficult to identify failure modes.

The principle effort of the Improved Liquid Integrity Evaluation Techniques for First Responder Ensembles research project is to develop sensors to replace the subjective determinations of liquid penetration made as part of the current test. Research will also be conducted in the project to investigate different parameters related to how the test is conducted and correlate these observations made in simulated field exposures. In addition, test method changes and sensor technology will be validated through an interlaboratory test program. The outcome of Fire Protection Research Foundation work will be recommendations for new test procedures for incorporation into various standards such as NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting and NFPA 1994, Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents. 

Video: Jeffrey Stull, president of International Personnel Protection, Inc., talks about the project.

The project team is being led by International Personnel Protection, Inc., a firm that provides research and expertise in the field of personal protective equipment and other areas related to worker safety and health. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is a member of the team and will be coordinating independent external reviews of project work. Also on the team is Intertek Testing Services of Cortland, N.Y., a provider of a substantial amount of the testing that supports certification of first responder protective clothing and equipment, including “shower” testing. The research project will be completed over a 20-month period.

About the Fire Protection Research Foundation
The Fire Protection Research Foundation plans, manages, and communicates research on a broad range of fire safety issues in collaboration with scientists and laboratories around the world. The Foundation is an affiliate of NFPA.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at 
www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

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