ResQ: What is involved in the process of researching, developing, and implementing new fabric technologies for first responders?
JM: We actively incorporate end-user suggestions to design an effective and comfortable fabric. Additionally, we invite firefighters to round table discussions to hear what they want in their gear and what could be improved. Having these honest discussions helps us better understand what firefighters need and, in turn, helps us develop cutting-edge technologies that will help firefighters perform better in their day-to-day tasks.
JA: Our sales associates visit end users and manufacturers to gain insight into how the gear is performing. We learn firefighters’ true needs so we can properly address them. Through these conversations, we found that firefighters want more comfortable, lighter gear, and better protection against heat stress, so that is what we are actively working to achieve.
ResQ: How important is third-party testing when evaluating a fabric’s FR performance, and what is the process like?
JA: All FR fabrics require third-party verification to determine if they meet the minimum NFPA standards. In addition to meeting or exceeding these industry requirements, we ask fire departments to perform wear trials and provide feedback. Hearing directly from firefighters is critical in developing the best possible technologies to protect them against the hazards they face. With this real-world feedback, we better understand what the industry needs and, subsequently, how our technologies can meet or exceed these needs.
ResQ: What makes Milliken ResQ fabrics perform better in the field?
JA: We designed an outer shell specifically for a customer which has gained many accolades in the market. The goal of this product was to increase the total heat loss (THL) of the garment without compromising the thermal protection and durability of the gear. Another notable feature is the increase of flexibility in the fabric, which allows the firefighter to move easily. The increased THL and flexibility puts less stress on the body to move, which helps reduce the likelihood of heat stress.
We also look at future needs when applying or developing our technologies. Because Milliken has a dedicated research and development team, we are able to think outside of the box when envisioning new technology. Additionally, our extensive background in secondary and military protective fabrics has given us a leg up in developing textiles for the fire service.
ResQ: What does the future hold for turnout gear fabrics?
JM: The fabrics of tomorrow will need to be environmentally friendly and provide firefighters with the best protection suited for the conditions they are exposed to. At Milliken, we assess the environmental impacts of each fabric we create to analyze the life cycle. We are working to lower our environmental impact through thoughtful innovations and environmentally focused goals.
JA: In the future, I would like to see the three individual layers of turnout gear combined in a way that creates synergy to better protect firefighters and provide them with additional benefits.
Incorporating wear trials and feedback directly into our fabric innovations helps us better protect those who protect us. It is an honor to work alongside the fire service industry to develop the most effective and the most user-friendly protective fabrics in the market.