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Project HEROES (Homeland Emergency Response Operational and Equipment Systems) is the IAFF initiative to rapidly develop, prototype and field test structural fire fighting PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) with enhanced chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protective qualities to account for today’s new threats. Fire fighters currently do not wear structural fire fighting PPE that can protect them in an environment where there has been a release of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents. To further the IAFF‘s efforts, we have received a federal government contract by the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Click here to view the entire project Project Heroes IAFF-NIOSH.


As part of our program within the contract, the IAFF is leading the Project HEROES Team that includes the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Total Fire Group, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NIOSH NPPTL), and International Personnel Protection, Inc.  We have have been involved in the development of a new generation of structural fire fighting personal protective equipment (PPE) offering chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protection. The IAFF Project HEROES Team has focused on a development program that combines identifying and evaluating candidate materials, creating a design that addresses interfaces between ensemble elements, and pursuing standards that rigorously define needed levels of protection. This program has resulted in materials with demonstrated CBRN protection, which are integrated into the garments (coat and pants), hood, gloves, and footwear of a fire fighter protective ensemble in a manner with no sacrifice of breathability or fire fighting performance to the wearer. Each of the critical interface ensemble element interface areas (e.g., garment to hood, hood to SCBA) has been addressed by applying innovative designs that prevent inward leakage of CBRN agents. The new interfaces also increase the overall ensemble’s protective performance in the primary mission of structural fire fighting.


Extensive evaluations have been undertaken at the materials, ensemble, and field test levels. Material testing has included evaluations to demonstrate resistance to permeation and penetration by CBRN agent after simulated use of the garment material to assure that the protection remains in place over the full service life of the ensemble. Overall integrity testing of Project HEROES ensembles using Man-in-Simulant Test procedures has shown overall protection factors between 450 and 540 (the proposed revision in NFPA 1971 specifies a minimum protection factor of 360). In comparison, a properly fitted standard ensemble provided protection factors of 13 and 14, when tested in the same fashion. In practical performance testing of prototype ensembles to evaluate fit and function, end users that had never seen or used the ensemble before unanimously preferred the Project HEROES ensembles over their current gear. Comments from the end users indicated that the Project HEROES ensembles were lighter and more comfortable and kept them drier than their current standard structural fire fighting protective clothing.


The IAFF Project Team has worked with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to establish suitable requirements for CBRN protection in ongoing revisions of NFPA 1971 (structural fire fighting protection) and NFPA 1994 (CBRN protection), which will be adopted late in 2006.  The IAFF will be completing their work on the Project HEROES ensemble shortly after the new standard issues.  Work is currently underway to finalize the ensemble design and conduct a series of field tests at selected cities. The IAFF has endeavored to maximize the end user input to the new Project HEROES ensemble design throughout the process.

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