Evaluating the Results of a Modified Bunker Gear Policy

This page may contain links to non-U.S. government websites. What this means to you »

By David Mager

In August 2000, Boston Fire Department (BFD) modified its mandatory bunker gear policy to permit less than full bunker gear. The problem was that no evaluation of the policy change was performed to determine whether or not firefighter safety was enhanced. The purpose of this research was to determine if modifying the BFD bunker gear policy enhanced firefighter safety. An historical and evaluative research methodology was used to answer the following questions:

  1. Prior to the modification of the bunker gear policy, what was the injury rate for heat stress injuries on the fireground?
  2. Did the rate of heat stress injuries go down after the modification of the policy?
  3. Did any other category of injuries increase after the policy change?
  4. What must BFD do to ensure optimum safety for its firefighters?

The procedures involved an examination of injury statistics before and after the change. This data was used to answer questions 1, 2, and 3. An extensive literature review and interviews with bunker gear experts provided answers to question 4.

The results of the research showed a slight increase in heat stress injuries and provided numerous options to reverse this occurrence.

Recommendations included continuing the search for less heat stress producing bunker gear, instituting a wellness/fitness program within the BFD, and training for heat stress recognition and prevention. Also, to benefit future research, the department should maintain a database of injury statistics. For the benefit of the fire service, another major study of bunker gear, similar to Project FIRES, was recommended.