Kevlar® Dare Bigger™ Moments: Globe
For many, the word “firefighter” conjures the wail of sirens and the blur of a ladder truck on its way to a structural blaze. But “fire” barely hints at the hazards today’s first responders face. Just as likely they’ll find themselves arriving at the scene of a rail disaster, containing chemical spills, capping gas lines, or cutting apart wrecked vehicles to free the injured passengers within—all while risking contact with flames, fuel, acids, and jagged metal.
In all of these situations, the primary barrier between firefighters and the danger at hand is their “turnout gear”—the heat, chemical, moisture, and tear-resistant jackets, pants, and boots they wear on every call. For more than a century, the biggest name in turnout gear has been Globe Manufacturing Company of Pittsfield, New Hampshire. Globe’s founders established the turnout gear category more than a century ago and revolutionized it in the 1960s by transitioning from raw materials like cotton and wool to fire-resistant DuPont™ Nomex® fiber. Then, in the late 1970s, Globe began adding a small proportion of DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber to most of their garments. With time the amount grew, and now stands at 60% and higher.
“We’re always going after this notion of strength,” says Rob Freese, senior vice president at Globe and a fourth-generation descendent of one of the company’s founders. “And for us, the answer is always Kevlar®. Having Kevlar® in every system we make is critical.”
A high proportion of Kevlar® gives garments better “break-open” protection in structural firefighting and other high-risk emergency response scenarios and increases the wearer’s odds of survival in flash fire incidents. When the flame-resistant qualities of Nomex® and Kevlar® are combined, tests show the expected body burn for firefighter turnout gear is less than 12%—a highly survivable degree of injury. “Maintaining that outer envelope can mean the difference between life and death,” says Freese. “It’s the thing that gives them escape time when they get into one of these horrific situations.”
The singular toughness, thermal resistance, and lightweight properties of Kevlar® are a non-negotiable for Globe. “Kevlar® is in every set of turnout gear that Globe makes, bar none,” says Freese. “Through the years we’ve seen other para-aramid alternatives come to market, but taking a couple of dollars out of a $2,000 piece of gear just isn’t worth it. Having the support and research capabilities of the DuPont organization is extremely valuable.”
Over the past 50 years, Globe has collaborated with DuPont, federal agencies and universities to deliver successive generations of lighter, stronger, and safer turnout gear.
Today Globe sells their products in more than 80 countries worldwide and each year brings another 100,000 articles of protective clothing to market. Not surprisingly countless “thank you” messages have made their way back to the company’s main offices. “We get feedback all the time from customers who say our product has saved their lives,” says Freese. “When everything else goes south, it’s the last line of defense. It’s the thing that brings them home at the end of the day.”
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