Rain and snow can really complicate a firefighters’ job. If you’re lucky, you have more than one set of turnout gear to change into while the other is drying or being cleaned. But an additional set of protective clothing is expensive for any organization, and many of us can’t afford the luxury.
As a result, after a rainy shift, you’re often stuck putting on cold and wet protective clothing. Hopefully you don’t have to go to a working structure fire, where you could receive steam burns from your wet clothes. I rather prefer a set of dry turnouts! In addition, the current NFPA standard recommends washing your turnouts with an extractor and air-drying them whenever you’re exposed to fire byproducts. Air-drying in a damp environment can take days.
Enter the HangAir, a lightweight, inexpensive, portable way to quickly dry turnouts without the use of a commercial dryer.
Southern California, where a wet winter means a few inches of rain, might not seem like the best place to test the HangAir. But time was on my side; the product arrived the day before our first rain of the season. We were in for a soaker–3 straight days of rain, and I was working 2 of them.
The HangAir was initially designed for surfers, and the product packaging still shows a picture of a wet suit hanging on the HangAir. What a great idea! I remember putting on a wet, cold wet suit to go surfing–not fun. The HangAir product line was recently purchased by Underwater Kinetics, which is now marketing the product to firefighters and other emergency responders.
The product literature boasts that the HangAir uses a 120-cubic-feet-per-minute waterproof fan to dry gear in approximately 8 hours. The shape of the hanger is wide, to open up the shoulder of your coat, as well as opening the sleeves to allow air to move down into them. You can also hang your pants at the same time, although the drying process does take a little bit longer because of the increased surface area. Just like a regular hanger, the HangAir ships with a metal hook from which to hang it. Overall, the HangAir’s construction is solid.
I was able to get through about the first 12 hours of my rainy shift before I had to change into my backup set of gear; this is where I put the HangAir to its first field test. Much to my surprise, it dried very effectively and quickly, and my gear was wearable within a few hours. The following day we spent running from alarm to alarm, and I was soaked to the bone. As I left for home, I placed my gear on the HangAir for the following day. When I returned, I found my dry gear placed back in my turnout locker; someone else had placed theirs on the HangAir!
In addition to using the HangAir on duty, I conducted several field tests. I washed a set of turnouts as prescribed by the NFPA and air-dried them. The outside temperature was 56 degrees F. After almost 4 days, the turnouts were dry enough to wear, but still a bit damp.
In the second test, I washed a coat as prescribed and hung it on the HangAir to dry. It dried in less than 4 hours in the same 56-degree temperature. I then followed the same steps and washed the pants, with the same results.
For the third test, I followed the same steps with a complete set of turnout gear, hung on the HangAir together. The complete set dried in roughly 8 hours. In all the tests with the HangAir, I turned the arms of the coat inside out (the instructions don’t mention doing this, but I recommend it), but the wristlets remained damp.
Overall, the HangAir is a great value ($30—$50) and does what it says it will do. It can be stored in your wall locker or turnout locker, is constructed of plastic that looks extremely durable, and the plug is ergonomically shaped for your hand.
Two concerns I have with the HangAir: The high/low on/off toggle switch is designed to be in contact with a wet surface; however, it seems to be loose, almost as if it might break if you were to inadvertently bump it too hard. Second, the unit is electrically powered, so it will need to be within 15 feet of a power source, but that is an easy fix with an extension cord.
The HangAir lives up to the spirit of the NFPA standard for drying gear. It doesn’t subject the protective clothing to excessive heat, but rather dries by providing moving air, speeding up the drying process and getting your turnouts back into service dry, reducing the potential of injury due to dampness.
The bottom line: The HangAir is a good product. In fact, I’ll be recommending it to my department.