Let's Talk Fire : Take Care of Your Helmet
A Little History Lesson
One of the most prominent concerns for early firefighters was protecting their head from water and hot embers. The original fire helmet was intended to do just that. It had a wide brim the extended over the back of the neck and acted as a water run off to keep any hot bebris from making contact with the head or neck of the firefighter.
Original helmets were not designed for impact. They were made or course leather and served as a means of redirecting hot water and embers. Thank God this has changed with newer helmets.
A much needed upgrade
Today's more modern helmets still keep the original function of the age old leather helmet but have added a few extra features to provide added protection. These features include:
- protection from impact.
- protection from heat and cold
- secondary protection for face and eyes when using a faceshield
- if a shield is included the helmet becomes a great tool for accountability
Helmets are vital to firefighters because head injuries can occur on ever scene you encounter. To insure you are working at the highest level of safety with your helmet you need to take good care of it. It can be a life saver so treat it as such.
How do I take care of my helmet?
There are several ways to do this and each is just as important as the last. Let's explore these methods in detail.
Remove Dirt and Debris
Dirt, soil and debris can become stuck to the helmet very easily. I am often removing sheetrock (gypsum board to you old dogs out there) from my helmet. This debris can be a real nuisance. It will absorb and retain heat. This heat puts the firefighter wearing the helmet in immediate danger as the integrity of the helmet is being compromised. It is not uncommon to hear of helmets having holes burnt through them because of lack of proper care.
To remove dirt and debris simply use a cleaning solution that is not harmful to the helmet's structure (look at manufacturers recommendations) and scrub the material off your helmet. After doing this let your helmet sit and dry or use a vent fan to dry it quickly. Never, and I mean never go into a situation with a helmet that is wet unless you have to.
Remove chemicals, oils, and petrolium products
These act in the same way soil and dirt will act with one massive exception. Some chemicals possess a very keen ability to soften the outer shell of your helmet. This makes it useless in protecting from impact of any sort. A soft helmet is one that will not provide adequate protection and will leave you vulnerable to injury.
These types of stains on your helmet also make the helmet act as a conductor of electricity. This is also why we try to avoid getting our helmets wet if at all possible. A direct current to the helmet means a hardline right to your brain. The result will not be pretty and many a firefighter has suffered electrical shock in this manor.
Get the fit right!
Helmets are only working for you if they fit your head snuggly. Don't choke yourself but don't let the helmet be to lose. A lose helmet means difficulty in keeping the helmet from blocking your line of sight as well as a dangerous situation if it were to slip off your head. A loose helmet also will not take the impact a tight one will. It will fail to transition the blow.
If your helmet is loose or to tight adjust the suspension system inside and make it fit the way you need it to. If the system is compromised take the helmet out of service until it can be repaired.
Perform routine inspections of your helmet
Look for things that put you at an added risk. These include
- cracked or broken outer shells
- damaged suspension systems making it hard to adjust fit
- cracked, melted, or severely scratched faceshields
- any damage you find that is not immediately fixable
Tips for using your helmet
- Take added precaution and use a nomax hood with your helmet.
- use goggles when working near chemicals or an abundance of heated water
- remove any polycarbonate helmet that has made contact with hydraulic oil
- use an anti fog treatment on your face shield and goggles to prevent obstruction of sight
- always follow directions on the helmets manufacturer papers
Your helmet can be the difference between a slight headache and a coma. Treat it has such and remember to always inspect it after every run, regardless of run type. Always be cautious and learn from the past for survival in the future.