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Development of an Apparatus for Measuring the Thermal Performance of Fire Fighters' Protective Clothing.

pdf icon Development of an Apparatus for Measuring the Thermal Performance of Fire Fighters' Protective Clothing. (3647 K)
Lawson, J. R.; Twilley, W. H.

NISTIR 6400; 55 p. October 1999.


Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC

Available from:

National Technical Information Service (NTIS), Technology Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Springfield, VA 22161.
Telephone: 1-800-553-6847 or 703-605-6000;
Fax: 703-605-6900.
Order number: PB2000-100422


protective clothing; fire fighters; environments; heat transfer; burns (injuries); test methods; garments


Fire fighters' protective clothing has steadily improved over the years as new materials and improved designs have reached the market. A significant catalyst that has brought these improvements to the fire service is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971 standard on structural fire fighters' protective clothing. The fabric flammability test in this standard has resulted in the development of protective garments that resist flaming ignition. The Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) test has assisted in the development of garments that protect fire fighters from short duration, high intensity, flash fire exposures. These two thermal tests methods have clearly lead to improvements in fire fighter safety. However, thousands of fire fighters are continuing to be seriously burned each year. Discussions with fire service personnel indicate that many of these serious burn injuries are occurring when fire fighters are exposed to thermal environments that are significantly less intense than those addressed in the NFPA standard. Therefore, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has begun the development of a method for measuring the thermal performance of fire fighters' protective clothing under thermal conditions less severe than those currently specified in NFPA 1971. This report describes a test apparatus and investigates a method for measuring the thermal performance offire fighters' protective clothing. The test method measures temperature through the various layers that make up a fire fighter's thermal protective garment. Temperature measurements are made at the surface of the outer shell, at locations between fabric or moisture barrier layers inside the protective clothing system, and at the, thermal liner surface where the fire fighter's clothing or body would be in contact with the garment. When plotted, these temperature measurements show a detailed picture of how a protective clothing system performs when exposed to a given thermal environment. The apparatus may be used to expose protective clothing specimens to a wide range of heat flux conditions. These thermal conditions may be varied from 1.5 kW/m2 to more than 50 kW/m2. The test apparatus may be used for investigating the effects of moisture in protective clothing systems. In addition, this test apparatus and the measurement methods allow for specimens to be studied for a time period ranging from several secondsto more than 30 minutes.