By Author(s): Shannon Pieper 
Published Friday, April 20, 2012
Have you ever thought about the reflective trim on your turnout gear? Maybe you did the last time you got a new, shiny pair of turnouts—or maybe not at all.
Reflective trim is one of those things that might not be that “sexy,” but can make a life or death difference on the fireground or on the side of the road. At FDIC today, 3M shared some testing data that shows that “out of the box” trim can experience significant quality degradation with even minimal exposure to heat.
In accredited third-party tests against a competitor’s trim, the competitor’s trim showed an initial brightness level—over 800 (NFPA minimum is 100)—far above 3M’s trim, which measures around 500.
But after just one minute at 250 degrees F, the competitor’s trim brightness fell below 300, significantly less than the initial 3M trim level. And repeated exposures at 300 degrees F brought the brightness level down even further. 3M trim, however, maintained nearly even brightness through repeated exposures to heat.
Now, if you’re like most firefighters, when you receive new turnouts, you’re going to be using them for many years. So it would be good to have trim that withstands the test of time. Additional tests at high heat (500 degrees F) showed that although the 3M trim burns and turns color, it maintains some of its original brightness. The competitor’s trim was burnt black.
Bottom line: If you’re speccing PPE, or advising someone else in your department who is, ask about what reflective trim you’re getting, and remember to ask for data not just on initial brightness, but how the brightness holds up over time.
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