After two years of development, field testing and subsequent improvements, the Science and Technology Directorate is proud to announce that a new improved structure glove that allows better fit, dexterity and flexibility has completed testing and received National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) certification. The glove is now commercially available for firefighters use from Shelby Specialty Glove.
Firefighters wear protective gloves called “structure gloves” to keep their hands safe on the job. The protective equipment firefighters wear—including structure gloves—give them the confidence to focus on putting out fires and saving lives; however, the structure gloves currently used by firefighters are not designed for the precision movements our first responders must perform.
“Firefighters have been using bulky leather structure gloves for many years,” said Greg Price, Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) First Responders Group’s Program Director for Technology Development. Price oversaw the glove’s development and testing. “The new tools firefighters use in the field enhance their mission, but the gloves haven’t updated with the technology.”
While there are many different types of structure gloves available, none fully satisfy modern firefighters’ needs. Today’s compact tools often have small buttons that require nimble movements. Bulky gloves can make it difficult for firefighters to complete simple tasks without removing their gloves and compromising their safety.
Firefighters need gloves in the field that fit properly, enable dexterity, and aren’t bulky, while still meeting the heat and water resistance criteria. If structure gloves become soggy and uncomfortable, a firefighter may need to remove them in order to complete tasks. This exposes their hands to the dangerous conditions of a fire and other hazards in the environment where firefighters work.
As advanced textile technology and materials continue to develop, the science behind firefighter structure gloves has adapted. Price and S&T’s First Responder Technologies Division used these advancements to develop the Improved Structure Firefighting Glove—a less bulky, updated glove merging the needs of firefighters with available technology and improved materials.
“The Improved Structure Firefighting Glove uses new materials that greatly enhance its performance,” said Price.
Developed in partnership with NanoSonic™ and Shelby Specialty Gloves, the Improved Structure Firefighting Glove is a combination of traditional materials and NanoSonic’s HybridShield® insulated materials that are water-repellent and heat resistant. S&T asked Shelby Specialty Gloves, a structure glove manufacturer, to take the glove one step further. The resulting product is the first of its kind—a lightweight, improved form and better-fitting structure glove.
The project underwent multiple stages of research and testing to ensure the selected materials were durable enough to handle field conditions. Several prototypes of the glove were produced to ensure the best possible finished product. In 2012, S&T shipped glove prototypes to multiple fire departments for testing. Each iteration featured improvements made based on comments from firefighters. The current version of the glove was assessed in 2013, and evaluated against five categories: ease of donning and doffing, proper fit, puncture resistance, dexterity, and thermal protection and heat dissipation.
The improved structure glove received glowing reviews. The enhanced fit allows firefighters to perform even the most delicate of tasks, such as inserting a key into a lock. Firefighters noted heat resistance, don and doff ability, and overall comfort and flexibility as key improvements in the improved structure glove.
In April 2014, Price and the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory led an operational field assessment of the glove at the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy. Participants evaluated the glove’s form, fit, and flexibility while performing daily tasks like tying ropes, manipulating hoses, and operating Hydraulic rescue tools.
“Overall this glove is a vast improvement over the comparable gloves that I have worked with,” Lieutenant Jason Smith of Montgomery County, Md., Fire and Rescue Service tweeted. “These could potentially replace the rescue/extrication/structure gloves that I carry now. No need to carry three sets of gloves.”