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What Is Bunker Gear?

By Jennifer Leigh
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bunker gear, also referred to as turnout gear, is the protective clothing that firefighters wear when they are working in hazardous areas. The gear includes such items as a coat, pants, helmet, boots and other protective equipment and clothing. Firefighters also have clothing that they wear primarily in the fire station. The name "bunker gear" comes from the fact that firefighters often keep their gear near their bunks so that it can be easily accessed in case of an emergency. Standards apply to bunker gear because it must be able to resist high levels of heat, flames, smoke and toxins.

Most firefighters wear a combination of a jacket, gloves and pants, oftentimes with heavy-duty suspenders. Bunker gear in general is made of extremely thick material that is fire-retardant. The jacket and pants both have many pockets that are used to keep tools and rope that might be needed during a fire. Jacket cuffs are made of a flexible material that holds in place the gloves that firefighters wear, which helps prevent burns along the wrists.

Firefighters also have protective items as part of their bunker gear, including boots, a helmet and other small safety items. The helmet and boots are both made out of heavy-duty materials such as rubber, leather or reinforced plastic. Steel-toed boots are common in case an object were to fall on a firefighter's foot while he or she is handling an emergency. Other protective gear that is a part of bunker gear includes a whistle and a breathing apparatus for smoky situations.

While in the fire station, firefighters typically wear T-shirts with their station number or uniform shirts and regular pants. This gear enables them to easily put on protective clothing when called to an emergency, because it can go on directly over their clothes. Bunker gear is extremely hot, so in non-emergency situations, firefighters can remove their jacket and still have a shirt on that identifies them as firefighters.

In many places, there are standards for the bunker gear that firefighters wear. Items often must be tested by a third-party organization in order to become approved for use, and they must be re-tested every time a change is made in material or design. These standards are put in place to ensure that firefighters are as protected as possible because of the dangerous situations in which they often must work.

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