PBI garments put to the test

Published:  10 February, 2012

Senior fire personnel from across Europe invited to witness a series of six test burns in Manchester, UK, at a neutral testing ground – the British Textile Technology Group (BTTG) test lab.

The structural fire suits that were used in the test were all made by the same manufacturer and incorporated the same designs, thermal and moisture barriers. The only difference between the garments was the outer fabric - necessary to allow the comparison of different materials and their protection performance.

Three of the garments were made with PBI Gold 200gsm, PBI Matrix 205gsm and PBI Gold 220gsm fabrics. The other fabrics consisted of a MetaAramid-imid 220gsm, MetaAramid 200gsm and a MetaAramid 220gsm.

After an 8 second burn at 1000°C all of the PBI fabrics retained their strength and flexibility, with no evidence of shrinkage or break open, even after extensive flexing of the garment.

All three of the other fabrics showed evidence of shrinkage and started to break open in varying degrees as soon as they were flexed.

PBI International’s Vice President (Sales & Marketing) Helmut Zepf, commented: “A firefighter’s most important line of protection and defence is the clothing that they wear to fight fires. Their structural kit has to be designed to protect from the most extreme situation in a fire, a flashover, even if it is not an everyday occurrence.”

Zepf went on to refer to a report on firefighter PPE, undertaken by the Center for Research in Textile Protection and Comfort at North Carolina State University in 2004, which identified break open in the outer fabric as a risk to burns. The report’s results indicated that when the shell material is removed (broken open and lying on the ground) the time to achieve a 2nd degree burn, or the thermal protective performance of the turnout gear system, decreases by about 35%.

“If caught in an intense fire or flashover the firefighter is not going to stand still, so it is vital that the outer fabric on his protective clothing can withstand the flexing that will occur from natural movement such as crouching or walking,” said Zepf.

“At PBI we believe that our products speak for themselves, which is why we think it is important that our customers have the opportunity to compare fabrics in an independent test environment. It is the only way to make a valid comparison.

“All of the PBI fabrics consistently maintained their integrity with no signs of shrinkage, brittleness or break open, retaining most of their colour and durability.”

The eight-second burn test was undertaken on the 2006 version of the male heat sensing manikin known as RALPH (Research Aim Longer Protection against Heat), which was developed by BTTG and conforms to ISO 13506. For the test the hands and head were not used, leaving 123 sensors on torso, arms and legs that monitor the temperature on the surface of the manikin during the test.

The manikin was challenged by a flame engulfment apparatus that consists of two tiers of six burners that create heat flux of 84kW/m2. The garment was exposed for eight seconds and data from the sensors was collected for two minutes.

  • Operation Florian

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