Structural turnout gear or bunker gear refers to the system of outer protective clothing worn when on duty as part of a firefighter uniform. A firefighter's turnout gear or bunker gear can be either the firefighter's trousers, jacket, and boots, or the fireman's entire combination of personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal protective clothing. Structural turnout gear is worn by the firefighters who protect houses and other buildings, in contrast to Wildland Firefighting or Brush Gear, which is worn when protecting against wildfires.
Modern structural turnout jackets and turnout pants are made of fire resistant fabrics (mainly Aramids such as Nomex and Kevlar) or polybenzimidazole (PBI) fibers. The standard that the National Fire Protection Association has designated to firefighter protective clothing, NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, specifies the minimum requirements for structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements that include structural turnout coats, turnout trousers, coveralls, helmets, gloves, footwear, and interface components.
Structural turnout clothing worn by firefighters often consists of a combination of trousers with an overall strap attached, boots, and a jacket. Most fire services seem to use a trouser/jacket combination. The advantage of this combination is the ability to remove the jacket in situations where the jacket is not necessary. Since bunker gear insulates the body from the outside air, the body heats up rapidly: taking off a turnout jacket helps considerably in keeping the firefighter cool in situations where flame and abrasion resistance is unnecessary.
All turnout clothing must have three components, according to NFPA 1971: an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal barrier. In between these layers are pockets of air referred to as "dead zones". These layers of air, along with the three protective layers, help to insulate the firefighter from the extreme environments of fires. Usually turnout pants are outfitted with reinforced knees and leather cuffs. The materials used for the three layers in turnout trousers and coats may vary but will very often include a combination of Nomex/Kevlar flame resistant material.
When the need arises for actual firefighting protective equipment to be worn, known as turnouts, a firefighter must properly wear the required personsal protective equipment (PPE). Turnout trousers are usually the first article of clothing that a firefighter will wear. Suspenders worn with the turnout trousers should be the heavy duty type in order to stand up against such heavy weights and rigorous activities they will face. Most experienced interior firefighters (firefighters that enter the structure in an emergency) will carry, in their turnout trouser pockets, various tools and equipment as well as rope they may need during an emergency. The turnout trousers, when not in use, are usually stored scrunched down around the boots for efficient and fast access when they are needed. The firefighter may then step into each boot and pull up the trousers and suspenders.
The type of protective jacket typically worn by firefighters is called a turnout coat. Turnout coats usually feature oversized pockets to allow for carrying tools and other firefighting equipment, and reflective safety stripes ensure that firefighters remain visible to each other. Protective coats will usually have Velcro or zipper to enable the firefighter to properly and quickly don this piece of turnout gear. There is also a storm flap which covers this closure area and protects it against damage and loosening and as an extra proective measure to the fire fighter as these areas can be exposed to fire and heat. Structural turnout overalls are also available, made of the same flame retardant materials and specifications.
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