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Hazmat PlacardsFighting fires requires special clothing and safety gear that protects firefighters really well, and you can read about that in the article on Personal Protective Clothing. Unfortunately, our turnout gear doesn't work in every situation. The most obvious is Hazardous Materials incidents - HAZMAT for short.  For these incidents we are worried about a different set of risks, and so we have different gear that addresses those risks.  Here the danger comes not from heat and smoke but from toxic, corrosive, reactive, infectious or otherwise threatening substances.  You probably recognise the signs at right from buildings and from trucks you see on the road.  For firefighters, seeing some of these these signs at an incident are a clue that they will very quickly find themselves in HAZMAT gear.

 

Splash SuitDepending on the severity and type of threat, CFA brigades use one of two types of HAZMAT suit to deal with the incident  and you can see these two sorts here. The first, bright yellow suit is called a "Splash Suit". Splash suits are suitable for the less dangerous incidents. They provide great, but not perfect coverage. You can see that the gloves and boots are separate, and not joined to the suit. They also have the disadvantage that the Breathing apparatus is worn outside the suit, and so is in a position where it becomes contaminated along with the suit.

 

The second, orange suit is called an Encapsulated Gas Suit, and is airtight and fully sealed at wrists and ankles. The Breathing Apparatus is worn inside the Encapsulated Gas suit and so does not become contaminated. Working inside a gas suit takes a bit of learning and is definitely not something that you would want to try if you get a bit claustrophobic.

 

 

The name of the game when working in either splash or gas suits is to take things slowly and carefully. It is very important to think about the environment you are working in, and to be very conscious of objects that could puncture or damage the suit.  Getting in is not too hard... getting out takes a lot more planning and effort. Encapsulated Gas SuitThe operator will go through a decontamination shower and scrubbing first to remove harmful substances from the outside of the suit. Its then up to the operator to worm his way out of the suit, being careful that the wet (and potentially still contaminated) outside and clean inside of the suit stay separated, and that the operator is not exposed to any residue.  Interestingly, being of a small build inside these suits can be almost as much of a disadvantage as being a bigger person.  They are one size fits all, although the firefighters who are qualified to wear them will probably tell you that its more a case of one size fits none!

 



The stated mission of CFA is to "Preserve Life and Protect Property".  Without the proper protection that would be a dangerous task for any firefighter.  Fortunately the CFA equips each firefighter with what we know as "PPC" - Personal Protective Clothing - that is designed to protect firefighters from the hazards they face.  turnout gear on  hooks

 

First, and most important, is the turnout gear which comes in two basic types - one optimized for structural firefighting and the other designed for wildfire (bush- and grass fires).  

 

The structural PPC is heavier, and designed to provide the high level of thermal insulation and protection needed to protect a firefighter from the heat encountered in structure fires. It comprises multiple layers and is made from advanced fabrics that cope well in high heat environments.

 

Wildfire PPC by comparison is much lighter, and designed for longer wear outdoors on the fire ground of a bush or grass fire.  These are the "yellows" that are so well known by the community.

 

Both sets of turnout gear have matching gloves and helmets that are again optimised to work with their respective turnout gear.  Finally there are several options for boots that again meet different needs. 

 

Together these comprise the armour that firefighters depend on when they head out to an incident.