By Rob Freese, Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Globe

If you were fortunate enough to attend FDIC this year, I think you’ll agree that our preview of Globe ATHLETIX™ – the future of turnout gear – created unbelievable excitement and buzz among firefighters. In fact, it was unlike any other exhibitor’s presence there.

New material technology, also unveiled at the show, enables our all-new athletic design with stretch fabrics. That’s right – turnout gear that’s made with a stretch outer shell and stretch panels inside. The stretch allows a closer, more body-contoured fit of the gear, which provides firefighters with unprecedented range of motion when performing the physical demands of their job. The combination of new materials and new design results in turnout gear with less bulk, more flexibility, and that is lighter weight.

To showcase the capabilities of ATHLETIX™ with the new materials, we donned Olympic athletes with the new gear, which they wore while performing their extreme trampoline shows multiple times a day at FDIC. The athletes experienced unrestricted range of motion. Crowds that gathered during show times in our booth, in the aisles around our booth, and in neighboring booths were astonished at what the athletes could do in turnout gear. We heard several times over the days, “Are they wearing real turnout gear?” Yes, indeed, no smoke and mirrors.

I have a funny story about the Olympic athletes from Flippenout Productions, which I only heard at FDIC. The organization has performed countless shows at professional sporting, corporate, and community events all over the world. The emcee announced during their first show at FDIC that when Globe originally called about performing in turnout gear, they were skeptical. They envisioned the oversized, heavier and baggy looking gear from yesteryear. When they were fitted for the gear and saw it in advance, they were a little less skeptical. But when they performed in it, they were blown away that they could move as they do in the athletic clothing they typically wear. I have to say that I was blown away too. Our radical departure from the norm was alive and performing beyond our wildest imaginations.

New Materials
Based on what we heard from firefighters, we worked closely with TenCate, DuPont, and 3M to develop the technology behind the all-new materials that enable our ATHLETIX™ design. While final versions are still under development in some cases, those new materials include:

• KOMBAT™ STRETCH PBI®/KEVLAR® blend fabric allows closer, less bulky fit with unprecedented range of motion and more flexibility while providing premium thermal break open protection.
• NOMEX® NANO thermal barrier material is dramatically less bulky, lighter, more flexible, more breathable, and quicker drying without sacrificing TPP.
• 3M SCOTCHLITE™ COMFORT TRIM reflective material is segmented and heat sealed rather than sewn to be lighter, more flexible, and breathable without sacrificing visibility.

Voice of the Customer
ATHLETIX™ is a revolutionary change in turnout gear design and capability. It was inspired by interviews we conducted with hundreds of firefighters who told us what they liked about their turnout gear, what they didn’t like, and what they would change if they could. FDIC was a continuation of this “voice of the customer” development process. We gathered feedback on the all-new athletic design from attendees who tried it on. Time and time again, we heard comments like “It’s so light and flexible,” “Is this NFPA gear?”, and “What do I have to give up for protection to get this?” Honestly, some were left speechless.

We’re reviewing all of the feedback now to modify and finalize the ATHLETIX™ design. Once finalized, we’ll be able to submit garments to UL for NFPA certification, and then we’ll be able to start delivering selling samples and wear tests. This entire listening/refining/testing process is critical in order to deliver turnout gear that firefighters want and that passes all of the required NFPA tests.

In the Meantime
You can check out features of the gear we previewed at FDIC, see a 360-degree view, and watch a video of firefighters experiencing ATHLETIX™ for the first time – all on our website.

We’re still asking and we’re still listening to what you have to say. If you went to FDIC and you tried on the new ATHLETIX™ for yourself, I’d love to hear what you think. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you at a conference near you this season and listening to your wants and needs regarding your personal protective equipment.