Previously we have looked at anti-flash hoods on the blog, which are cotton hoods designed to protect sailors from flash burns in case of a sudden flash of heat. Whilst these are ideal for this purpose, they are not suitable for prolonged exposure to heat, such as in a firefighting situation. All RN sailors are trained in how to fight fires aboard ships, and specialist clothing is provided for this purpose including Nomex hoods:
Nomex is a specialist aramid polymer developed in the 1960s and is highly resistant to fire, originally seeing service with racing car drivers but soon expanding out to other situations where there was a risk of fire. In a military setting Nomex is used for tank and aircraft crews to protect them in case of a fire in the vehicle, as well as seeing naval service for firefighting. This hood is for firefighting as the facepiece is open to fit around the outside of a firefighting oxygen mask:
Here crew training on HMS Protector can be seen wearing the Nomex hoods and masks:
The hood itself has a washed out label in it and a couple of laundry tags in it:
The letters NIFRS indicate that this is actually a civilian hood, as these are the initials of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. The pattern, however, is identical to that used by the military. The research and development in civilian fire and rescue equipment is second to none and as such it makes perfect sense for the military, with its much smaller requirements, to piggy back off this R&D wherever possible and use the same uniform and equipment as their civilian counterparts. This can be seen in the military adoption of the same Nomex jackets and trousers as fire services worldwide, replacing the old woollen fearnought suits that were introduced decades ago.
Firefighting is an important area of training that all sailors undertake at Portsmouth:
Nothing is more dangerous on board a ship or submarine than fire – confined spaces, toxic substances, intense heat, claustrophobia, ammunition ‘cooking off’.
Every sailor receives fire-fighting training at a state-of-the-art purpose-built fire school on Whale Island.
It replicates compartments on board a warship such as engine rooms, machinery control rooms, mess decks, galleys and passageways.
The fires inside are gas-powered – making them environmentally-friendly – and supported by smoke generators, can be controlled by tutors.
Courses offered to sailors range from two days to a week for more experienced fire-fighting team leaders.
Having done the course myself, I can attest to its realism, and how fun it is (in a safe training environment)!