If there is one fire fighting equipment that firefighters are personally attached to, it is the fire safety helmet. A distinctive yellow, red or black, the helmet is an immediate identifier of the fire fighter’s grit and bravery. But it is not simply sentimentality that makes fire fighters so attached to their helmets. Helmets have quite literally saved lives on a number of occasions.
Do we need safety helmets in an average home or institution? The answer depends on the size of home/institution. An average 2BHK may not need a helmet, but a large organisation will find it handy, especially for its fire safety team or the key people in-charge of security. Many organisations, hence, are particular about their safety helmet manufacturers.
It is not mere sentimentality that prompts the fire fighter’s attachment to the safety helmet. These helmets are often a critical part of their ensemble, essential to safeguard their life in a very dangerous profession. Some of the benefits of a fire fighting helmet are:
- It protects the head in case of falling debris. Buildings caught in fire are treacherous ground where entire sections are weakened and can collapse. In this case the hard helmet is essential from saving the head from a fatal injury.
- The helmet keeps the head dry when the hoses are turned on.
- The visor at the front forms a shield against fire sparks and smoke. This is critical for saving sensitive organs like eyes.
Over the years there has been little changes in the basic design of the helmet. However, safety helmets manufacturers have changed the material, making them lighter without compromising on their basic ability. The material has changed from leather to metal to the present lightweight polymers.
1. Leather helmets: Also known as leatherheads, these were the iconic early helmets. The term leather heads was once synonymous with firefighters. In the early days of firefighters, these were also used as a symbol for firefighting. The leatherhead’s ability to withstand heat is actually close to modern helmets. Some fire departments may keep these as a token of tradition, but these are not widely used anymore.
2. Metal helmets: One of the early proponents of the metal helmet was Napoleon Bonaparte who assigned the fire fighting units as party of the French Army. Brass helmets were used by this team, a trend widely followed in Europe. Other metals used were aluminium, aluminium alloy and silver plated helmets. Some firefighting units still use metal helmets. However, the conductivity offered by metal helmets makes them unsafe in cases of electric outage during fire.
3. Modern helmets: As various problems crept up with the previous helmets, safety helmets manufacturers started looking for other material. Today helmets are made of composite material using lightweight polymers and plastic. The F1 helmets of France, one of the most popular models, is effective against not just fire, but also impact and electricity – two conditions that modern firefighters are often faced with. The helmet also accommodates communication systems and other essential tools.
Modern structural helmets, another modern variant, are also made from composite materials. These helmets have many advantages over their previous avatars, some of which are:
- Modern helmets are made of lightweight material. For firefighters who carry heavyweight material, this is a huge advantage, especially since they have to wear their helmets for a long duration.
- Some modern helmets are also equipped with communication tools, a very handy tool for firefighters who have to coordinate with other people in often dangerous surroundings. It can also help them in sending out distress signals.
- Made of fireproof material, these helmets have the capability of withstanding extreme heat. This is often better than traditional metal helmets.
- Unlike metal helmets, modern helmets are also non-conducive to electricity. This gives them a decided advantage since, fire incidents often involve electrical equipment.
- These helmets are extremely tough and capable of withstanding considerable impact. This gives firefighters safety in collapsing structures.
- The modern helmet design has a visor at the front and adequate covering at the back to protect firefighters from extreme heat on vulnerable parts like eyes and neck.
Many safety helmet manufacturers are also coming out with a mix of traditional and modern where the design remains traditional, but the material used is closer to modern helmets.