Each FRS will have a slightly different uniform (and different suppliers) but the basic Firefighter PPE is the same:
- Trousers and Jacket
- Mask/Breathing Apparatus
Main Firefighter PPE Uniform
Trousers and jackets are otherwise known as your tunic and leggings. Don’t worry – they’re not leggings in the traditional sense!
They’re made from fire resistant, synthetic fabric which retains its structural strength after fire exposure, and resists cuts and tears. It gives protection whilst adding as little extra heat as possible.
The synthetic fabric helps reduce the weight – Nomex and Kevlar are common in PPE.
Helmets are made from flame and heat resistant materials, usually thermoplastic or fibreglass composites which provide protection from heat and injury.
Most UK Firefighters wear yellow helmets. Watch Managers and above wear white helmets. Rank is further indicated by black stripes around the helmets.
Helmets usually include a face shield or visor, neck protector, and chin strap for security. They’re fully adjustable for comfort and fit. Style will vary slightly, and they’re evolving all the time – including the inclusion of built-in radios, torches and even cameras.
Firefighters use different types of hand protection for different operations. These include work gloves for maintenance tasks, rescue gloves during vehicle rescues, and fireproof proximity gloves for extreme heat environments.
They’ll be a mix of natural (leather and hide) and synthetic flame-retardant materials. Rescue gloves allow for better dexterity, while proximity gloves offer a lot of protection.
As a firefighter, it’s important to take care of your feet. Long hours and days can take a toll, and the right boots can make a huge difference.
You’ll normally wear station boots at the Station and on non-fire calls. Many Stations give fairly wide leeway on what can be worn. Local Fire Stations often ask for quality, black service boots, but they may not need safety toes or puncture-resistant in-sole plates.
The boots you wear for callouts must meet standards for toe protection and puncture resistance, and are usually rubber or leather. Leather boots are usually lighter weight, more comfortable and easier to drive in. They will also have steel or composite toe protection.
Firefighters wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), sometimes referred to as a compressed air breathing apparatus (CABA) or just breathing apparatus (BA). This device lets you breathe in dangerous environments. It weighs about 15kg in total.
A BA set consists of a compressed cylinder of air, the set itself and a face mask. The cylinder has a capacity of nine litres, giving around 30 minutes of air – this can be increased or reduced depending on the task the Firefighter is completing.