Emergency Response


Gear Components 101

For the structural firefighter, choosing the right turnout gear can mean the difference between life and death. The garments you wear are your main source of protection against heat, flame, abrasion, liquid penetration and cuts.  

Understanding the functions and limitations of your turnout gear is vitally important.

Turnout gear is comprised of three primary layers: an outer shell, a moisture barrier and a thermal liner. Each layer is designed with specific functionality to provide firefighters with the utmost in protection and performance.

Gear ComponentThe outer shell layer provides a tough, durable first line of defense against heat, flame and abrasion. Key considerations for evaluating outer shell fabrics include:

  • Weight
  • Inherent flame resistance
  • Tear resistance
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Thermal performance (during and after thermal exposure)
  • Color consistency
  • Water repellency

MoistureBarrierThe moisture barrier is the middle layer of the 3-layer turnout composite. Typically, the moisture barrier is sewn to the thermal barrier.

Its protective role is of critical importance to a firefighter's safety. The moisture barrier prevents liquid moisture from passing through to the inside of the garment. Moisture barriers help keep firefighters dry and protect them from hazardous liquids, such as chemicals and body fluids. At the same time, they may help to reduce heat stress by facilitating the outflow of heat and vapor. 

ThermalBarrierThe thermal barrier insulates firefighters from the intense heat of structural fires. A thermal barrier is required (either permanently sewn-in or snap-in detachable) to insulate against conducted, convection and radiant heat. A thermal barrier typically consists of a facecloth quilted to one or more layers of a non-woven. Thinner, lighter, thermal barriers are designed to provide less insulation but generally offer greater comfort characteristics, which can reduce stress.

In evaluating thermal barriers, you need to consider thermal protection, heat stress, climate, industry requirements, comfort, and budget.

TenCate offers firefighters a broad range of choices in outer shells and thermal barriers that meet or exceed industry standards.