Evaluation of performance of in-use firefighters’ protective clothing using non-destructive tests
Firefighters’ coats and pants, referred to as firefighters’ protective clothing in this research, are made of similar fabrics and often include three layers: an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal liner. Minimum requirements of firefighters’ protective clothing performance have been clearly established by various national and international standards for new clothing to ensure the reasonable safety of firefighters. However, there are no clear guidelines on the requirements for continuing performance of firefighters’ protective clothing. In general, the protection offered by firefighters’ protective clothing is expected to deteriorate over time, but it is still uncertain how destructive different exposures are and how long a piece of firefighters’ protective clothing can continue to protect a firefighter to an acceptable level. Non-destructive techniques are preferable in order to investigate how the performance of protective clothing may change with time since this allows firefighters’ protective clothing to return to service after a test. These non-destructive methods, which could be used to monitor the level of deterioration in firefighters’ protective clothing performance and to make decisions on retirement of individual pieces of protective clothing, would be extremely useful for fire departments in Canada and other countries. Thermal exposure is an important factor in ageing of firefighters’ protective clothing during firefighting operations. Outer shell and moisture barrier specimens made of common fabrics used in construction of firefighters’ protective clothing, and of different colours, were exposed to different levels of thermal exposure simulated using a cone calorimeter in single and multiple stages. Tensile strength of outer shell specimens, and tear strength, water vapour transmission rate, and water penetration pressure of moisture barrier specimens, which are critical aspects of performance of firefighters’ protective clothing, were measured. In order to explain the changes in performance after thermal exposure, the temperature profile of specimens during each thermal exposure was recorded. Furthermore, thermogravimetric analysis for each specimen material was carried out and images of the surface of specimens were obtained using scanning electron microscope. The test results demonstrated that tensile strength of outer shell specimens deteriorated faster than other aspects of performance. Two non-destructive techniques, colour measurement and near infrared spectroscopy, were implemented to correlate tensile strength of outer shell specimens with discoloration and reflectance spectrum. Two types of correlation between tensile strength and colour change were identified among the tested fabrics, depending on the initial fabric colour, which could be a basis to develop numerical models to predict tensile strength of outer shell specimens. Linear predictive equations were developed using a numerical code based on regression analysis, which correlated tensile strength with reflectance of outer shell specimens within the wavelength region of 1500-2500 nm. A three-variable model predicted tensile strength of thermally aged test specimens, the tensile strength of which were 600 N and higher, with a relative error of up to 10%. For test specimens with tensile strength of about 300 N, the relative error was 55%. The difference in error percentage was related to a gap in training data points for the model within the tensile strength range of 300 - 600 N.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorTorvi, David A.
CommitteeEzekoye, Ofodike A.; Simonson, Carey J.; Odeshi, Akindele G.; Wegner, Leon D.
Copyright DateDecember 2013
Firefighters’ protective clothing