Safety is an important part of a fire chief’s job. Fire chiefs often have to do jobs that require them to remain highly visible to pedestrians, other workers, and motorists. In order to remain highly visible and stay out of harm’s way it is important to wear a public safety vest. Unfortunately, manufacturing standards may vary and as a result not all fire reflective vests meet the needs of the user. That is why the ANSI/ISEA has established standards for a fire chief reflective vest that are outlined in NFPA 1901, 2009.
A good fire chief reflective vest will identify the user as such. This is important because in an emergency not everyone will be familiar with everyone else and will thus be able to better identify who needs to do what. Additionally this distinguishes them from construction workers and alerts passing motorists to act accordingly.
Fire reflective vests need to be able to “break away” in the event of an emergency. For example, if a fire chief reflective vest gets caught in a wood chipper or other piece of machinery the chief needs to be able to quickly remove it in order to avoid injury. A well designed public safety vest will be made with at least five different points held together by Velcro enclosures. Because the breakaway points are held together by Velcro this means that the vest can be put back together once it is taken apart, assuming that the vest has not otherwise been damaged. The shoulders, waist and front are ideal places for breakaway points.
Fire chiefs generally have a large amount of equipment, such as radios and pens to take notes. A good fire reflective vest is also functional and has pockets designed to hold such equipment. A good vest will also be shorter than a normal construction vest in order to allow the fire chief to have access to their equipment belt.
Watch the video below to see a 5 Point Break-Away Vest in Action
Fire chiefs have to work in all sorts of weather. Well made public safety vests will have a number of accommodations to adapt to all weather. A mesh front also helps ensure that the vest is not too hot in the summer. In the winter the side Velcro enclosures enable the vest to be adjusted so that it can be worn over a winter coat. These same Velcro tabs allow the vest to be worn over a t-shirt in the summer, or if needed, a bullet proof vest.
Of course, the most important part of a public safety vest is its ability to be visible and reflect light. The two white one inch strips cover the entire vest. They are contrasted by much wider bright yellow strips. It is the white strips that reflect light from passing motorists and allow the fire chief to be seen even in the dark. The yellow strips allow the fire chief to been seen from far away or while under cover of trees or while in other hidden areas.
Picking a fire reflective vest is an important decision, so make sure you pick the right one.