Illuminating bands – a case study

Published:  22 November, 2011

Illuminating helmet bands can keep firefighters safe during zero visibility, as Woodlawn Fire Department found out when it was called to a fire at a fast food restaurant. 

Smoke and haze led a fast food restaurant manager in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, to call 911 early one morning. Employees reporting for their early morning shift first noticed the smoke. Within minutes the first firefighters arrived. A total of six different fire departments responded to the fire before it was eventually extinguished.

The restaurant structure was an older building that had been remodeled several times. During previous remodeling efforts, a drop ceiling had been installed over the original ceiling.  Once inside the building, firefighters started removing ceiling tiles and discovered super heated gases in the concealed space between the two ceilings.  

 “It was still dark outside when we entered the building,” said Peter Hauser, captain of the Woodlawn Fire Department and one of the first fire departments on the scene. “Combined with the smoke and darkness inside the building, there was zero visibility.”

On the day of the fire, the entire Woodlawn Fire Department crew was wearing Foxfire illuminating helmet bands  (developed by MN8-Foxfire) on their helmets. The helmet bands, which stretch around the lower part of a firefighter’s helmet, are made of industrial grade high temperature resistant silicone and are designed to handle the heat and rigors of firefighting. 

Foxfire helmet bands increase firefighter safety by emitting a glow, which is brightly visible even in dark, smoke-filled rooms. The glow illuminates surroundings and serves as a light emitter, enabling firefighters to keep track of their crews in dark environments. It provides a visual reference point to increase a firefighter’s positional orientation.

“As we quickly realized that heat from the growing fire had been absorbed into the upper walls and ceiling of the building, the room burst into flames and a flashover occurred,” said Captain Hauser. The crew knew it was time to immediately exit the building.

“The helmet bands were the only way we could make sure we were heading in the right direction,” said Captain Hauser. “And from an accountability standpoint, they were the only way we could see each other and make sure we were all safe.”

Foxfire helmet bands utilize an advanced photoluminescent technology that possesses the unique capacity to absorb and store light. The bands, which do not require batteries, can be repeatedly charged by any light source and emit an intense glow in the darkness.  The advanced pigment within Foxfire products needs only a few minutes of light — of any type from sunlight to fluorescent to vehicle lights — to produce 17 hours of afterglow. The bands are made with an industrial grade high temperature resistant silicone – the same type of product used in cooking spatulas and O-rings used in rockets.

“Flashlights are simply not as reliable to the Foxfire helmet bands. Flashlights require batteries, can malfunction, and don’t provide enough light,” said Captain Hauser.

Although firefighters mounted a defensive fight on the fire from outside the building, the restaurant was destroyed. However, there were no injuries to any firefighters or civilians from the fire event, which was ruled as electrical.


About Foxfire

Foxfire illuminating helmet bands are part of a growing product line that also includes an illuminating coating kit (for painting hydrants, tools, ladders, floors and more), illuminating grip wrap (for wrapping around tool handles) and illuminating equipment bands.

The company plans to introduce illuminating tetrahedrons later this year.

Unlike currently utilized high visibility colors and reflective striping that require an external light to be seen, Foxfire products act as their own light emitter. Not only does the bright glow emitted from Foxfire’s products illuminate surroundings and enable firefighters to keep track of their crews in dark environments, but it also assists in quickly locating dropped tools in dark environments and helps firefighters reduce disorientation.

“One of the main dangers a firefighter faces is disorientation in dark and smoky environments,” says Zachary Green, president of MN8-Foxfire. “With Foxfire, firefighters can reduce the danger of disorientation and keep track of their crews and equipment in dark environments.”

As for durability, Foxfire products are well suited to withstand the high temperature environments associated with firefighting. During product exposure testing, Foxfire products performed well with no issues in 500 degree environments for five minutes. Product  maintenance involves an occasional cleaning with a damp cloth after exposure to dirt or smoke. 

  • Operation Florian

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