How to inspect your firefighting kit

No matter what task you’re undertaking, your kit is your last line of defence between you and the fire, floodwater, corrosive chemicals or other hazards you are dealing with. Keeping it in top condition is of paramount importance.


While a generation ago scorch marks and dirt would have been worn as a badge of pride, today’s firefighters know that a clean, well-maintained kit is a safe kit.


In 2019, British Standard BS8617 was introduced to give firefighters guidance on the cleaning, maintenance and repairs of personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure it keeps you safe. It covers the inspection, testing, cleaning, decontamination, drying, repairs, replacement, retirement/disposal, recording, storage and transportation of kit. It’s a comprehensive standard.


We published a blog at the time that goes into more detail about the standard and what it means for you.


Within the standard, there is a recommendation that all fire services should have a contract in place for outsourcing the cleaning and maintenance of their PPE. In order to effectively use a cleaning and maintenance company, in-house inspections are required to ensure that you’re keeping on top of any issues that might crop up between regular maintenance.


What to inspect and when


Anyone involved in firefighting or associated activities needs to complete a routine inspection every time you get a new piece of kit, at the start of every shift and after you use the kit. Your whole structural suit needs to be inspected after every call out. Different conditions can cause different issues, but sometimes general wear and tear will make itself known at the most inconvenient of times and you definitely don’t want it falling apart when you need it the most.


Each time, check your garments (jacket and trousers), helmet, gloves, footwear and fire hood.


What to look for


Some damage is not so easy to spot, so a thorough inspection is required:


• Check the surface of the fabric for holes, rips, tears and scuffs

• Shine a torch over reflective surfaces to make sure they remain reflective

• Check the durable waterproof repellent layer (DWR). Having this coating working properly will not only keep out water, but will also protect you from battery acid, other chemicals and, crucially, particulates. Use a spray bottle to mist water over the fabric. If it pools in droplets, the DWR is working fine, but if it soaks into the fabric, it’s time to get it re-treated

• Check that Velcro adheres properly and zips and other fasteners close properly. If you have been in a grassy environment, the Velcro can easily become matted and fail to close properly

• Stress test the fabric. Push a blunt object against the fabric. It shouldn’t go through, but if it does, it’s a good sign of UV damage that has weakened the fabric


What to do when there’s a problem


Your fire service should have clear guidance for what to do when PPE needs to be repaired or replaced. There are steps you can take to preserve the life of your kit. Read our blog on how to maintain your firefighting kit here.


We hope that’s a good short guide to how to inspect your firefighting kit – if you want more details about our comprehensive range of high quality firefighting garments and PPE, call one of our experts on +44 (0) 1332 341030.

How to maintain your firefighting kit

When you are busy fighting fires and rescuing people, you might not have thought about how to maintain your firefighting kit.


Anyone involved in firefighting knows that their kit is their best friend. This safety barrier protects people working on the frontline from all manner of hazards, from freezing cold temperatures to the most extreme heat, from toxic chemicals to the invisible hazard of particulates.


But the kit can only do so much on its own. Making sure the kit is up to the task is, at least in part, down to the user.


So how can anyone involved in firefighting and associated activities preserve the life of their kit through regular maintenance?


New British Standard for maintaining your firefighting kit


BS8617 was published in 2019 with detailed guidance for the inspection, testing, cleaning, decontamination, drying, repairs, replacement, and retirement/disposal of firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE). While it recommends that each fire service should have a contract provider for cleaning and maintaining kit, there are also steps individuals can take to preserve their equipment.


Understanding your durable water repellent layer (DWR)


The DWR layer is the element of your structural suit that makes the biggest difference between it being professional safety equipment and normal clothes. As the name suggests, it keeps out water, but it also protects you from other liquids, including battery acid and other corrosive chemicals.


Crucially, though, by making the fabric non-porous, the DWR also keeps out particulates, which are now widely recognised as one of the biggest dangers to the health of a firefighter. Particulates in a firefighting scenario can penetrate the skin and get into the blood stream, where they can be carcinogenic. We have a whole blog post on particulates here.


Maintaining your DWR is a simple yet effective measure against these known poisons. To check whether your suit is still water (and particulate) tight, simply spray it with water from a spray bottle. If the water pools in droplets on the surface, the DWR is working effectively. If it soaks into the fabric, the DWR has failed and the garment needs to be re-treated.


When to repair and when to replace your firefighting suits


Within BS8617 is provision for keeping excellent records and traceability for all PPE items. This provides the opportunity to keep a close eye on maintenance spending, monitoring how much money is spent on each item. If a new jacket costs £200 for example, and you have already invested £150 in repairs, there’s a good chance it will be more cost effective to replace the jacket the next time it is damaged instead of paying for another repair.


Garments will also need to be retired if they are over 10 years old (or older than the lifespan determined by the manufacturer) or if they have been contaminated by chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear agents.


Good maintenance protocols go hand in hand with constant kit inspections to flag issues as they arise. Read more about kit inspections here.


Now you have more information about how to maintain your firefighting kit, if you’ve identified that replacement is better than more repairs then take a look at our full range of structural, wildland fire, HVP and rescue kit here, or call one of our experts on +44 (0) 1332 341030.