Training to quickly and correctly don your structural firefighting PPE accomplishes more than the clear benefit of increasing your speed. Regardless of the time limit that your department sets, the timed donning drill helps firefighters master the basics, understand proper fit and inspection, and avoid mistakes that could lead to injury.
Each piece of PPE from head to toe must fit and overlap properly at the points of interface for full protection. A Journal of Burn Care & Research study published in 2014 looked at firefighting videos and reasons why firefighters fail to correctly wear structural firefighting PPE. The reasons cited were haste, cumbersome or ill-fitting gear, and cultural factors.
Timed donning drills are performed so firefighters can work up to a required speed while ensuring they have donned each piece of PPE properly. The benefit of speed is lost if items are left behind or incorrectly worn, which can interfere with performance or lead to injury.
How do donning drills help with proper fit?
Firefighters dealing with cumbersome gear are easily identified in donning drills. Poorly fitting PPE slows down a firefighter or leaves areas of expected overlap open for injury. New firefighters should be fitted for their PPE, but this may not happen in some departments. Timed donning drills are one of the best ways to reveal if a firefighter is struggling with poorly fitting PPE.
Ricochet provides a custom sizing guide as well as instructions for proper fit and critical points of overlap based on NFPA 1971 for structural and proximity gear. NFPA 1971 mandates that all layers have at least a 2-inch overlap between coat and pants when the firefighter reaches overhead, and when bent over forward, backward, and to the sides. Movement is the main focus of your fitting. While a snug fit will feel better, you dress for function. Time spent adjusting your gear every time you put it on is time taken away from the fire response.
Proper sizing and measuring of firefighters, along with timed donning drills, ensure a correct fit and use of PPE. Any problems a firefighter may be having with their gear can be identified through donning drills early in their firefighting training—and corrected before they head to the fireground.