Milliken Protects the Heart of Firefighting

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Milliken Protects the Heart of Firefighting

Auteur : Article Written by Robert Keys, Milliken & Company

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, heart attacks caused 53% of 2019 on-duty firefighter deaths. It’s a sobering thought, but the men and women risking their health and safety every day are more likely than the average citizen to be in danger of heart disease.


There are many factors that could contribute to the elevated risk of heart disease for firefighters, including a high-stress work environment, more physically demanding job requirements, and increased exposure to extreme elements — especially the need to wear heavy gear multiple times throughout a shift. At the core of each heart disease component is a commonality: heat.


The first step to fighting fires while improving heart health is understanding heat in relation to gear evaluation. Firefighters recognize fire and smoke, but they measure heat the way we all do — by how it feels. Are they uncomfortable in the moment? Are they exhausted at the end of the day? There are two primary measurements that should be taken into consideration when evaluating gear — Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) and Total Heat Loss (THL). The former measures how well the gear prevents the wearer from getting burned and the latter, how breathable the gear is.


In most cases, as TPP goes up, THL comes down and vice versa. A home run occurs when the gear is lightweight and breathable, without compromising any thermal protection. This means that the fabric is allowing heat to escape from the gear instead of trapping it near the body, elevating internal body temperature and increasing cardiac stress.


The Fire Service team at Milliken & Company works collaboratively with firefighters and emergency responders to develop gear that is comfortable to wear and as lightweight as possible — without sacrificing required protection. The key is to innovate fabrics that release moisture — sweat and body heat — to help produce less firefighter fatigue. Uniquely constructed, lightweight FR fabrics provide improved breathability and more flexibility that helps reduce the possibility of firefighter heart attack and stroke.


During my 31-year career with the FDNY, I held many firefighting and leadership positions, including Battalion 39 Commander and Chief in Charge of the R&D Unit, where I oversaw equipment testing, development, and certification. I’ve learned firsthand that wearing the right gear for the right call will not only prolong the life of the gear but will also make the firefighter more efficient and effective while properly protected on the inside and out.


The heart is the engine of the firefighter, and too many departments do not have gear that properly cares for the engine. It’s my mission to ensure firefighters are protected and safely return to their families at the end of the day.


Learn more about how Milliken Fire Service fabrics prioritize firefighter health and safety at here.