A revised version of the European standard for firefighter protective clothing – BS EN469 – has been published in 2020 so we wanted to take the time to explain why UK state brigade kit must meet BS EN469 Level 2 standards.

The new European Standard makes several key changes and improvements on the 2005 version and our previous blog explains what the new revisions mean.

One element that we know UK-based crews are struggling to make sense of is the Level 1 and Level 2 standards, so here we explain the difference, why it exists and how it applies here in the UK.

Understanding the levels

The European Standard specifies Level 1 kit for fighting fires in the open, wildland fires, for example. Level 2 kit is full structural kit, the kind that is intended to keep you safe no matter what you are doing. The kind that repels water, contaminants and steam, but lets out sweat.

Some clothing meets Level 1 and some clothing meets both Levels 1 and 2.

Why UK crews need Level 2 kit and why Level 1 exists

Within the EU, particularly in France and Spain, and also in the US, firefighting crews can be split into two units – the ones who go into burning buildings and those who stay outside. Since full structural kit is intended to protect against structural fires, including flashovers, there’s a trade-off between comfort and safety. For those who stay outside, lighter, more breathable kit that conforms to Level 1 will keep the crews safe enough, but those facing the heat and intensity of the fire need far higher levels of protection.

Here in the UK, most Fire and Rescue Service crews operate a single crew model, where everyone has to be ready to deal with all situations and levels of risk, meaning full structural kits that conform to Level 2 standards are a must for everyone.

Of course, there are still situations where Level 1 kit will do the job: wildland fires, rescue operations (although there are specific wildland and rescue firefighter clothing standards) and clear up operations are easier to do in lighter kit that doesn’t need the same heat or water resistance.

Kit for on ships

Marine companies must have firefighting kit on board. Few ships have a dedicated firefighting crew, rather a team with firefighting training but other on-board responsibilities. Most fire situations on a ship can be dealt with using a fire extinguisher, while larger events will lead straight to an evacuation, but in the event that crew members face a fire that needs fighting, they’re going to need kit that is similar to EN 469:2020 Level 2, but the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have their own standards.

It can be tempting to save costs with a lower specification suit, but in the confined environments on a ship, clothing equivalent to EN 469:2020 Level 1 kits will not be sufficient, exposing firefighting crew to an unnecessary level of risk.

The FlamePro Beacon fire fighters kit provides the full range of safety measures for firefighting on the high seas.

What to look out for when buying kit

The word “lightweight” will be music to the ears of anyone who has had to don full structural firefighting kit, but these items are lightweight for a reason. Lightweight often equals less protection, less heat insulation and no moisture barrier.

Moisture barriers are essential for structural kit as they prevent water, pathogens and steam getting to the skin, causing burns and contamination. Level 1 compliant suits don’t have to have this.

Not only can FlamePro Level 2 compliant suits be relied on to keep the wearer safe, they also have a fully-fledged PTFE membrane that allows the maximum amount of vapour (sweat) out of the garments. Others may have PU membranes which are more like plastic bags.

To understand the British and international standards that apply to firefighting kit, visit the certifications and standards page of our website. Each item in our catalogue, lists which standard it is compliant with so you can buy with confidence, which is useful. now you know why UK state brigade kit must meet BS EN 469 Level 2 standards.

If you would like any further advice on what to look for when specifying your firefighting kit don’t hesitate to get in touch or call one of our experts on +44 (0) 1332 341030.

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