Proper Equipment Storage: How It Prolongs the Life of Your Gear (And Keeps You Safe)


LION V Force Turnout Gear

Firefighters rely on their equipment to do their job safely and effectively, protecting them from harm while fighting fires. However, if this gear is not properly stored, it can quickly deteriorate and become ineffective. Thus resulting in potential safety issues and costly repairs. Proper storage of your firefighting equipment will prolong its life cycle and usefulness. Some of the most important equipment in use by modern firefighters is their personal protective equipment, the structural firefighting ensemble. A firefighter’s turnout gear ensemble consists of multiple (often expensive) individual items. The collective cost of their gear represents a substantial combined financial outlay both for the department and the individual firefighter. Whether initially purchased for a new recruit or bought to supplement or replace the gear of a seasoned team member, the cost of a full protective ensemble is high. Helmets, hoods, suspenders, coats, pants, boots, and gloves can easily rise to the upper range of several thousand dollars. It is advisedly recommended to follow all proper care procedures (regular cleaning, drying, inspection, etc.) as prescribed by the gear manufacturer. But properly storing turnout gear between uses is also extremely important and can greatly extend the lifespan of an individual’s structural firefighting ensemble.

What Damages Firefighting Equipment?

Research and testing of PPE reveal several factors that adversely affect the life cycle of firefighting PPE. These factors include exposure to UV rays from sunlight and fluorescent lighting, moisture damage (mildew) from improperly dried gear, retention of fire gases and toxic substances from soiled PPE that has been improperly cleaned, surface contamination from ash, soot, and other debris from firefighting operations, and surface contamination from diesel exhaust particulates from fire apparatus (exacerbated if the apparatus bay lacks a diesel exhaust particulate removal system).

Protecting Your Firefighting Equipment

There are some very important procedures one can practice to minimize damage and attrition of firefighting gear over time. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for regular cleaning and complete drying is vitally important to extend the functional life span of firefighting PPE. Maintaining clean turnout gear also limits extended exposure by the wearer to surface contaminants and toxins trapped in the fabric. Even if a firefighter’s PPE doesn’t get soiled enough to require deep cleaning, it routinely gets wet and exposed to potentially toxic airborne particulates (smoke, soot). Proper PPE storage is extremely important in enabling the gear to completely air dry before its next use. Hanging the gear in a storage rack or bay that has adequate airflow will better allow absorbed fire gases or toxic vapors to dissipate from the equipment fabric and materials.

UV Exposure Protection

It's also important to protect PPE from UV exposure when in storage. Direct sunlight and the UV rays from high-intensity fluorescent lighting can have a damaging effect on PPE fabrics and materials. Some departments store gear in the station’s apparatus bay to ensure fast and easy access when calls come in. Dedicated steel mesh rack or locker systems can still expose stored equipment to UV light and surface particle contamination. One solution to this problem is the use of specially fitted synthetic fabric locker covers (secured with quick-release Velcro fasteners). These add an additional level of protection to stored gear. The ideal firefighting equipment storage solution is a dedicated, easily accessible space within the building to store PPE. Typically, one that contains a sturdy rack and locker system that permits free air circulation around and throughout the hanging gear. In a best-case scenario, the storage space will be equipped with negative ventilation that exhausts outside of the building. Unfortunately, not all departments are able to completely redesign their station building by adding a separate PPE storage room. Adapting a preexistent area of their station to house their gear can also be a challenge. Fortunately, there's a wide variety of commercially available turnout gear storage systems specifically designed with firefighting equipment storage in mind. These offer versatile (even mobile) storage options with shelving, lockers, and hanging bays that ensure free circulation of air, enabling complete and efficient drying and safe protected storage… all without sacrificing fast access in time of need.

Proper Equipment Storage Equals Safer Gear

Proper equipment storage will ensure that your department’s turnout gear is always fit and ready for duty when needed. A firefighter’s equipment and turnout gear are the most important investment, in time and money, a department can make. Use proper storage to raise the bar and ensure greater personal and departmental safety. Looking to up your storage game? Fire-End is proud to carry the Ready Rack reliable gear storage solutions needed for those in the field of search and rescue.

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