When I received my first flash hood many years ago, I was told it would protect me from burn injuries to my head and ears. It was constructed from a single layer of flame-resistant material called Nomex—something we’re all very familiar with now. The hood covered my head, ears and the top part of my neck. It was lightweight, easy to store and easy to lose. The one problem: After several uses, the seam around the facepiece opening would stretch out, creating gaps between the hood and the edge of the facepiece.
Since this time, manufacturers have developed a variety of hoods with increased neck coverage and more durable seams around the facepiece opening. I recently had the opportunity to test two Easy Seal Life Liners hoods manufactured by Stanfield’s Ltd. Both are constructed extremely well and meet the structural firefighting protective hood requirements of NFPA 1971: Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, 2007 edition.
Model TP9723ES (Image A) is constructed with three layers: two outer shells constructed of 20 percent PBI (polybenzimidazole) and 80 percent Lenzing, and an inner layer made of 40 percent P84, 55 percent Lenzing and 5 percent Kevlar. The KLS9723ES (Image B) is constructed of two layers of 49 percent Kermel, 49 percent Lenzing and 2 percent Spanex. This hood has a nontraditional look—it’s navy blue.
The hoods have a thick, heavy feel and are very comfortable. I was concerned that the thickness could cause some heat issues from trapped sweat that might convert to steam, but this wasn’t a problem. Both hoods seemed to wick the sweat away, and I didn’t notice the heat at all. While wearing other manufacturers’ products, I could still feel some heat and the sensation of steam associated with high-heat environments.
The hoods’ cut is what I like the most. These models have a protective bib in the front and back (Image B), a feature that seems to offer more protection around my neck. The back hood seam starts at the nape of the neck, allowing the bib to contour to the back of the head and neck. This lets it seal tighter around the neck, meaning it won’t bunch up much. The KLS9723ES (double-layer hood in Image B) did bunch a little in the back between the shoulders, but not as much as other brands I’ve tried.
I started the testing process by simply donning the hoods. I followed this by putting on my facepiece and then applying the hood. The hood covers the end margins of the facepiece by at least an inch with a seemingly tight seal (Image C). I then donned my jacket hood and facepiece. The hood slid over my head and facepiece harness with ease (Image D). I even went so far as to put the hood on after my jacket was on with the collar up. I was able to push/stuff the bib down my jacket neck opening and still have adequate protection.
After washing the hoods, I pulled them out of the laundry, and one of my firefighters immediately asked me if these were the hoods we were going to start using at our department. He remarked on the two-toned colors, the triple-layer hood’s bib and the weight of the double-layer hood. He tried them on and was amazed at the coverage over the neck, shoulders and face. I couldn’t agree more. He also noted the durability and comfort of both hoods. Between the two hoods, the triple-layer hood has a more traditional look and feels like it provides more protection because of the thickness; however, the double-layer hood has the same properties and characteristics without the weight.
I’ve put both hoods to the test in actual structure fires, commercial fires and several drill settings. Both worked well.
Life Liner Hoods (models TP9723ES & KLS9723ES)
+ Easy Seal face opening;
+ Tapered head pattern;
+ Protective bib; and
+ Fabric weights.
Cons - None.