For Firefighters, having the right gear is paramount to ensuring their safety while protecting citizens from dangerous fires. Fire equipment involves many different elements – Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs), helmets, suspenders, goggles, boots, gloves, pants, and jackets are just a few of the critical pieces needed for firefighters to safely do their job.
What often is not considered are the components needed to make some of these products. Fire Retardant or also called Fire Resistant (FR) elastics are one small part that literally holds certain pieces of gear together. For example, FR elastics are used and relied on heavily in the design of SCBA facepieces. Concerns arise when considering the possible damage of elastics hitting high temperatures and the potential to melt or drip, therefore a FR NFPA tested product is crucial.
Using fibers such as Nomex®, and blends of PBI®/Kevlar®, the FR elastics will not melt or drip in high heat due to the yarn’s inherent characteristics. Adopting a unique weaving process as well will ensure the elastic will not become wavy due to shrinking and will retain its stretch properties after heat exposure. Fire gear can be expensive and designing individual attributes like elastic to withstand multiple wears and various temperatures is unique and necessary.
FR elastics from Sturges Manufacturing come with many unique characteristics. When elastics are woven, monitoring tensions throughout the manufacturing process is necessary to ensure that the stretch is consistent. This allows the elastic to lay flat and prevents it from having a “ribbon effect,” or circular effect which makes it easier for a manufacturer to sew. Like many other performance webbings at Sturges, the elastics also go through a rigorous testing process all done on-site. All Sturges-made FR elastics have been sent to the Underwriters Laboratory to be UL Component Recognized to the NFPA 1971-2018 Standard for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. This third-party validation means the manufacturer is not required to pay for heat and flame tests as these components have been independently tested and verified.
In addition to the annual UL testing, Sturges performs vertical flame tests and records extinguish time as well as the char length (product must extinguish within two seconds and char length must be less than 4 inches). Heat tests are also performed in a 500º F oven — to pass, FR elastics must have 10% or less shrinkage and no evidence of melting, ignition, or separation. Testing is performed on five samples each for both laundered and non-laundered conditions to ensure the longevity of the elastic. Each lot of FR elastic is also stretch tested in accordance with ASTM D4964. A certificate of compliance accompanies each shipment defining the specifications and results as well
FR elastics are a critical component of many pieces of fire gear. They ensure not only the safety of firefighters but also the longevity and reliability of their equipment.