NFPA 1971/1977 testing procedures are designed to gauge a vast array of elements in relation to the protective garments/ensemble for structural firefighting, with 1977 relating to wildfires. This standard specific the minimum requirements for the design, performance, testing and certification of the elements of protective ensemble for fire fighters including coats, trousers, helmets, gloves, footwear and additional protective items that offer hazard protection in structural and proximity firefighting.
Defining the NFPA 1971 Certifications & Test Items
Testing on firefighting garments is extensive, covering a number of areas. 2007 revisions to the NFPA 1971 certification included absorption of the NFPA 1976 standard. Additionally requirements for drag rescue device and testing for such have been added. Testing includes heat and flame resistance to device as well as strength test, seam test, deployment time and functional testing.
NFPA 1971/1977 - CBRN Testing
NFPA 1971 sets the standard for protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents however protection in this regard is optional and not mandated in all forms of personal protective bunker equipment or turnout gear. As such, testing is only done for CBRN if a manufacturers wishes to specify this criterion within a garment or on protective gear.
NFPA 1971/1977 - Collar Height
NFPA 1971 specifies the minimum collar height of 3 inches. Safety and protective gear worn by fire fighters must meet this requirement because of a mandate to always wear protective hoods and firefighting helmets
NFPA 1971/1977 - Total Heat Loss
Safety garments seeking certification in NFPA 1971 must have a measured total heat loss, where THL is the measurement of heat and moisture passing through the layers of the rescue gear. Breathable fabrics used in rescue gear are designed to let perspiration and interior moisture to escape. The standard for THL is 205 watts per meter squared. (205 w/m2)
NFPA 1971/1977 - Heat Resistance
Conductive Compressive Heat Resistance (CCHR) is performed on the shoulder and knees of fire rescue gear to verify that these provide consistent protection when compressed. This test is run in both dry and wet conditions to simulate kneeling/crawling as well as carrying SCBA gear and a fully loaded tank. The test is intended to assign a rating that defines the time in seconds needed to achieve a temperature rise of 24° C. NFPA 1971 defines a required rating of 25 seconds.
NFPA 1971/1977 - Durability
In additional to all the other requirements of NFPA 1971/1977 for moisture barrier and flame/heat resistance, the NFPA 1971 requires that barrier layers be tested for resistance to general, light degradation. This is intended to measure water penetration resistance. This is typically a hydrostatic test done following severe UV exposure, done only on the moisture barrier.
Additional testing includes minimal length requirements, tensile strength, seam strength and other mechanical tests. Protective firefighting equipment, depending on the garment piece, is put through striker tests as well as shock and penetration tests followed by radiant heat and flame engulfment tests for continued durability under extreme conditions.