I know that some one out there has been through this debate before. While going a little longer than ten years for turn outs might be doable....twenty year old turn outs are not acceptable. However, I am meeting with friction on the replacement angle. "We're Volunteer Fire Fighters...we don't not have to hold ourselves to the ten year standard."

Of course, they do. But I'm looking for other Officers that have seen this movie before and came up with some magic bullet responses to get new turn outs. Thank you.

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Yes it would be great to have turn outs replaced by NFPA Standards. But having the funds to do this is another story. And I feel that in the future this will even become more difficult.

I know that this is true for some volunteer departments.  Now there are some vollie departments that do take care of there gear and do replace them when it is necessary.  One thing you have to remember is the funds aren't just flowing freely in volunteer departments so replace turn out gear every 10 years for 50+ members is hard.  So unless you are paying out of your pocket to replace this gear then we do the best we can with what funds we have available.

We're dealing with this issue right now.  I really comes down to firefighter safety.  Just because the NFPA recommends something doesn't mean it has come down from Mt. Sinai.  However, they are the one who are the recognized experts and it would be a shame to have to explain to a family member that their son/daughter/husband/wife/father/mother was injured or killed because of old, out of date gear.  We have had to limit membership in the department only because of the number of turnouts we can afford to replace on an annual basis.  As it stands now only the Chief has out of date turnouts, with some others expiring before the end of the year.

First of all, it is absolute NONSENSE that volunteer firefighters don't deserve the best in PPE, just like their career Brothers and Sisters do.


Secondly, I was a chief of a small volunteer FD and how we handled turnout gear was an annual scheduled replacement of up to 5 sets of turn out gear.  We had ourselves on a 7 to 10 year replacement plan.  If you can't afford 5 sets a year figure out what it takes to do a 10 year replacement.


Thee are alternative funding sources available.  Try for an AFG grant, look to you state forester, sometimes they have PPE grants available, fund raise, look for donations from private citizens, civic organizations, and businesses in your area. 


In my state the NFPA standards for turnout gear have been adopted and made law.  Kind of eliminates the need for proving you need it.

Its simple realy, NFPA may only be consensus standards and not be law yet, BUT, if you have a firefighter killed in the line of duty, and the OSHA inspectors investigate and find that the turnouts he was using were 15 years old...its over rover.  Courts see NFPA as a panel of Experts, and their reccomendations, albeit just standards and not law, are still considered to be something that firefighters should be following.  They will use that as ammo and build a case on it and there is no winning.  If a panel of experts reccommend changing protective clothing after a certain amount of time, and they can back it up with documented scientific testing in labs and in the field, and you refuse to take their advice and someone gets killed....What will be your defense argument?  We didnt know about it?  We didnt have the money?

We are in the same situation, we are small rural department with about 24 members.  We just started that 5 year plan as well, we purchase 3 new sets of turnouts a year, if we get more members and have no gear for them than we buy the extra set as well.  It was heart breaking when we went into our "Gear Storage Closet" and had to throw out over 12 sets of gear, ranging from 13 to 18 years in age, two sets were over 20 years old!!!  The gear still looked fine, no tears or holes or fading, but we still threw it out. 

My personal view is I would rather argue about what I DID rather than what I DIDNT do when it comes to firefighter safety.

Stay Safe everyone and good luck with the gear replacement Jack, I hope you are able to get through to them and make them see the light.


 If your gear is bad and hey you may only see 1-2 fires a year it doesn't matter, all it takes is one time and you can get hurt.  Fire doesn't care if your volly or paid. 

  We are a small volly dept. and what we do is an annual inspection of gear, then we decide if your gear is bad and if you are a ff that does or will do alot of interior you get moved up the list to be replaced.  We've gotten on a schedule that we generally only have to buy 3 sets a year and we can stay ahead.


I want to make sure I'm following this: Bunker gear is to be replaced every ten years irrespective of its amount of use?

I want to make sure I'm following this: Bunker gear is to be replaced every ten years irrespective of its amount of use?


Pretty much WP. If going by NFPA standards, it calls for replacement every ten years. As FETC alludes to, if you don't confrom, then the dept holds the liability. If you adopted the NFPA standard, then you should be complying by it.

I come from a very large volunteer department with over 200 members. Our budget allows for around 15 sets of gear a year. Luckily we received a grant that allowed us to purchase 60 sets. We based replacement by how old the persons gear was and how active they are. The people that show up and do the work got the new gear, for the most part. I was put on the list as a back up and ended up getting new gear even though my bunkers were only a year old. My bunkers went to a member of my company whose gear was 13 yrs. old. Long story why he got removed from the list.

Just the liability alone should make the chief come to his senses!! Moose hit the nail on the head!! Over time the fire resistance of our bunker gear dwindles. We've had people taking FFI be told they can't participate unless their gear is newer than 10 years. The instructors inspect everyone's gear to make sure it's compliant.

Think outside the box, make contact with San Diego FD, Carlsbad FD, Encinitas FD, etc. and try to secure their used turnouts that just might be better than what you currently have. It does not hurt to ask, but do so in person. You should also be working with your local OES to secure grant funding for terrorism. It's common place to justify having some of the county grant funding to come your way. If you don't ask then the other larger departments will garner all the grant funding. If you are silent, and if your Chief cannot do the job taking care of his personnel, then it's time to say goodbye and replace him with someone who can think outside the box. Call it tough love but identify it as nonsense. This is especially valuable if you have mutual aid agreements. Substandard turnouts can cost a lot more than a set of turnouts should someone be injured. Be sure to document your concerns so you can (if necessary) bring legal action(s) against this chief, and we are talking personal liability here. You are not allowed to make safety a non-issue.

- Mike

NFPA standards often reference other NFPA standards.  For live burn training to be compliant with NFPA 1403, the turnout gear used MUST be NFPA-compliant, and that means "not more than 10 years old".





While I agree in the past getting used gear from neighboring FDs was a great idea, if it is 10 years old it still doesn't meet the new standard.  Heck I can remember a time when my first volly FD had about 6 different ensembles because they were all hand me downs fom nrighbors!




In Wisconsin the NFPA turnout gear standard is LAW because it and several other NFPA standards have been adopted by the State.  We have the power of the law to back the need for new turnouts.



It is simply NOT practical in this day and age with the high cost of PPE to expect any FD to be able to replace ALL of the gear at one time, unless you get a grant.  The answerr is smart budgeting.  Look at the number of members, divide by 10 and evey year buy that number of sets of PPE.  Believe me I understand small budgets, I also understand tight wad village, town, city, and county boards that won't cough up the cash.  Time to spell it out for them.  1)  No one will be allowed to respond to any emergency in PPE over 10 years old,  2)  This means our ability to fight fire will be diminished by x amount with outdated PPE,  3)  The NFPA requires replacement evey 10 years,  4)  Explain your long term replacement plan.  5)  Detail THEIR liability, both as a board as a whole, and as them individually as board members.   Nothing like the fear of God or worse the fear of their wallet being empty to wake them up!!

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