Dr. Elizabeth Easter, professor in the Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles, recently received a $200,000 grant for a research project entitled: "Firefighter Durability Project - Evaluating Used Firefighter's Gear to Determine a Recommended Retirement Age for the Gear." This grant is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The research work is underway, and will conclude in June, 2011.
Industry support for the project is being provided through a variety of sources, including DuPont Personal Protection Group; Lion Apparel; Globe Manufacturing Co.; Fire-Dex, LLC; 3M; TenCate Protective Fabrics; and NFPA 1851 Technical Committee. Industry support includes help with donations of used gear from fire fighters in the field and access to testing equipment and facilities that are not available in the Textile Lab.
The objective of this study is to reduce safety risks and potential health risks of firefighters and other first responders by evaluating how the protective levels change over the lifetime of a garment and determine the appropriate age to retire firefighter protective gear. The ultimate objectives of this effort are to reduce the number of firefighter deaths and injuries in both career and voluntary firefighters. The research will evaluate used firefighter's turnout gear to determine if the current industry requirement for mandatory 10 year retirement for structural gear is appropriate. If not, a recommended retirement age will be put forth. For the purpose of this research, "used" gear will have been in service 3, 7, and 9/10 years (retired).
In addition to protective clothing research, Dr. Easter has also worked on projects related to laundry fundamentals and quality control evaluation of apparel and textiles. Dr. Easter currently teaches four courses in the School of Human Environmental Sciences. This year she is teaching MAT 520: Textiles for Interiors, and MAT 772: Seminar in Merchandising, Apparel & Textiles.