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Firefighter Suits Can Take the Heat

Fire Marshal Bill Stevenson is thrilled. He and his fire protection unit now have some of the safest and lightest turnout suits on the market. The suits can withstand up to 1,000-degree heat and are up to three times lighter than typical turnout gear.

The College of Textiles helped create the suit prototype as part of ongoing research after the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now the research has come full circle. Graduate students and faculty at the College of Textiles are helping protect NC State’s five-person fire safety team.

“Our staff has the best gear on the market and feels safe doing their job. I’m tickled to death,” Stevenson says.

Lighter and Safer

The suits’ innovative features were developed and tested in the Textile Protection and Comfort Center, known as T-PACC, which is the only academic center of its kind in the world.

Campus firefighters in new turnout suits that are lighter and more heat resistant.

Under the leadership of Professor Roger Barker (in top photo), the center has state-of-the-art equipment with the capabilities to research, test and evaluate the comfort and protective performance of the clothing worn by first responders like Stevenson.

Barker and his lab have a long history of using scientific discovery to build safer firefighter gear, including gloves with improved dexterity and thermal protection.

The new suits incorporate new materials and features developed by T-PACC students. For instance, NC State students helped develop thermal mannequins and other apparatuses which helped make the gear better and safer. Students also helped make the gear more breathable and capable of handling jobs such as auto extrication and rescue operations from disasters.

Given that their purpose is protecting people from falling debris and extreme heat, the suits feel surprisingly light and soft.

“I could wear this all day,” one member of NC State’s fire protection unit says.

Corporate Partner Gives Back

Perhaps the best part of the new turnout gear is that it was surprisingly light on Stevenson’s budget. Globe Manufacturing, one of T-PACC’s corporate partners, donated the suits to NC State. They retail for about $3,000 each.

Meanwhile T-PACC and Globe continue collaborating. Currently Barker and his team are developing new protective footwear for the military.