Tex. Firefighter Invents New Uniform Dryer
Sept. 08—The Woodlands Fire Department recently unveiled an experimental uniform dryer, which was theorized, designed and constructed by one of its own.
One of the challenges all fire departments across the United States faces is drying of the heavy duty firefighting gear, often referred to in the profession as bunker gear or turnout gear. The official name is usually Personal Protection Equipment and includes a helment, a hood, protective pants and jacket as well as gloves and boots.
Fire Chief Alan Benson, of The Woodlands Department, said during fires and other incidents, the advanced protective gear becomes both wet and covered with potential contaminants such as ash or residue from what has been burning.
Cleaning the PPE outfits often means the gear cannot be worn again until it is fully dried out, which creates a challenge if another fire incident occurs soon after another incident because most fire departments have only one set of PPE for each firefighter due to the high cost of the gear.
Recently, Benson said, The Woodlands Fire Department bought a second PPE hood for every firefighter in the department, but purchasing a completely new set of PPE for every person in the department is not financially feasible.
Cleaning up after fires is critical to the health of firefighters, Benson noted, and the department has taken measures to help firefighters clean up properly, from taking showers to other methods.
"We purchased some wipes, and we have a program which requires them to do a 'gross decon' of all their personal gear," Benson said. "We did a two and a half hour class, which teaches you how to properly clean your face and gear."
Once firefighters get back from a scene, the PPE gear is placed in a heavy duty washing machine, Benson explained.
"We require them to wash their gear, they're called extractors, they are heavy duty washing machines. We have one at every station now. They are required to wash all their gear," Benson said.
But drying the PPE is one issue all departments face, and that is where one resourceful firefighter stepped in to help.
"We have our own McGyver here, Chris Polnick," Benson said. "Chris is amazing. He produced this prototype, I think it can do two sets (of PPE) at a time."
The experimental dryer is based at the department's Station No 4, and the device consists of a blower that shoots air through numerous plastic plumbing pipes that have had a series of circular holes cut into them. The PPE gear is placed over the tubes, the machine is turned on and air blows rapidly through the various parts of the PPE, drying it quickly and efficiently, Benson added.
"They're still tweaking it, but it blows air through it. Everyone is raving about it because it can dry your gear in like two hours," Benson said. "(Polnick) is a great asset to our department, he comes up with stuff like this. He truly is McGyver."