Informed by Data: Wear Trials and Their Impact on Turnout Gear Design

Milliken ResQ is dedicated to providing the most advanced protective fabrics for structural turnout gear. From conducting research and development to refining our current portfolio, manufacturing leading fabrics to protect those who protect others is never complete. Wear trials—testing our fabrics in the field on real firefighters—offer unsurpassed insight into the real-world performance of all Milliken ResQ fabrics. While lab results provide vital data about protective features, wear trials expand our data set and add context for our current and future developments.

When a fire department participates in a wear trial, each participant receives customized turnout gear to wear when responding to structural fire calls. At the end of the trial period, which can last anywhere from 30 days to over a year, we document feedback from each firefighter about how the gear functioned and what can be improved. This process provides us with valuable insight into firefighters’ needs and how our fabrics help them perform their duties. With this feedback, we prioritize the features firefighters value and pinpoint areas where we can improve—all of which are incorporated into our development and production processes.

In recent years, Milliken ResQ identified the rising trend of lightweight and flexible turnout gear fabrics and increased our efforts developing fabrics that supported the trend. Lightweight and flexible fabrics enable firefighters to move easily and, in turn, help keep them cool. One of the leading causes of Line of Duty Deaths (LODD) is cardiac strain and heat stress, so fabrics and garment designs that help lessen this risk are in high demand. Heat stress can occur when a firefighter overheats and is unable to cool off, which can result in exhaustion, lightheadedness, or elevated heart rate. This is a serious safety concern, especially due to the physical demands and heat proximity that firefighters contend with on an ongoing basis. Through wear trials, performance properties were validated and incorporated into new Milliken ResQ fabric designs.

Not only does Milliken ResQ benefit from wear trial feedback, it also allows fire departments to test and evaluate gear before purchasing it. Turnout gear is not only a significant financial investment, but it is also a significant health and safety investment. Each department’s performance needs and gear expectations will vary—another reason why wear trials are so important and valuable. Factors such as call volume, call types, and climate all contribute to how gear should perform, and wear trials can help guide a department’s selection process. Wear trials also offer departments the opportunity to make changes and request customizations to better fit their specific needs.

 

When considering a change in turnout gear, implementing a wear trial is a useful step to select gear that works best for your department.