Since 9/11, professionals in the homeland-security and first-responder communities have become much more sophisticated and aware when it comes to making decisions about selecting personal protective equipment for CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) threats.
Users recognize that existing equipment, in many cases procured shortly after 9/11, needs to be upgraded in order to overcome product degradation, ensure protection against new threats, and meet the CBRN standards implemented by NIOSH (the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health), NFPA (the National Fire Protection Association), and possibly NIJ (the National Institute of Justice).
This is an encouraging trend; however, budgets have come under great scrutiny and state and local government funds have been slashed. As a result, users look for ways to leverage their dollars and still provide the best protection available to their people. The list below provides an overview of expected trends for 2010 regarding new product demands and how organizations can best leverage equipment expenditures and work together to receive funding.
- Integrated Protection Ensembles: The development of new equipment standards and a greater understanding of equipment capabilities will lead to a focus on integrated protection ensembles in 2010. Procurement officers will be much more focused on providing first responders with completely integrated individual protection ensembles as a way to provide a higher level of protection and save time and money.
Purchasing one fully integrated head-to-toe protective unit helps to reduce the potential of the leaks and breaks that can occur when putting various pieces of protective equipment together. Currently, there are protective systems available that easily integrate with hydration units, communication devices, and eye-protection equipment. In 2010, many manufacturers will move toward fully integrated protective suits, including respiratory systems such as masks, PAPRs (powered air purifying respirators), and SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) with bomb suits, gloves, and boots.
- Product Development Focus: Much of the equipment used in the homeland-security and first-responder arenas come from the Department of Defense (DOD) inventory or are spin-offs tailored to meet the requirements of this market. It is anticipated that defense budgets are going to come under great scrutiny in 2010 and beyond as the new administration takes a close look at spending under the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Because of this, we may see a reduction in investment in the research and development (R&D) of brand-new technologies that take years to hit the market. Instead, the focus will be on providing war fighters (and first responders) with the highest quality products already on the market or about to hit the market as well as modifying existing technologies to be more efficient.
Because of this, the technology available in 2010 will likely be the technology used in the coming years. If an organization has a need for new protective equipment now, it should not wait for a new technology to hit the market; instead, it should find the best equipment currently available and provide it to the team of responders.
- Dual-Purpose Equipment: As budgets become more constrained, first responders should look for dual-purpose equipment that will help to leverage their spending. The DOD will be looking to ensure that their equipment has dual-use capability across all markets. This is an excellent way to stretch dollars and provide first responders with equipment that offers a range of flexibility to meet multiple scenarios and requirements.
For instance, Avon’s FM53 NIOSH is the only tactical mask system available that enables users to operate the mask in all recognized modes of Respiratory Protective Equipment such as APR’s, SCBA’s, and PAPR’s. It meets the unique requirements of special operations units, such as first responders (hazmat and CBRN), law enforcement, decontamination teams, clandestine drug lab entry and remediation, specialist entry teams, chemical spill cleanup, bioentification and cleanup, law enforcement tactical (SWAT) teams, bomb squads, specialist correctional officers, and federal special response teams.
- Grant Funding: First responders have become more organized and a large majority of purchases in this market are now backed by grant funding. This is a great improvement because these professionals now have access to higher quality products designed specifically for their needs. In order to access grants, however, they can only purchase NIOSH- or NFPA-certified equipment. As a result, manufacturers will begin to put a bigger emphasis on securing NIOSH or NFPA certification for their products.
Navigating the grant process can be difficult, as it is challenging to understand the full scope of funding available. One of the best ways to get help in this area is to ask a manufacturer representative. Avon Protection Systems’ sales managers are highly knowledgeable about all of the grants available to organizations and can help customers determine which grants they should apply for.
- Interoperability: Grant funding is predominantly available in metropolitan areas where a larger volume of units are needed to outfit users and there are employees dedicated to applying for grants. However, it is harder for smaller communities to access grants due to small staffs who don’t have time to dedicate to grant writing. As a solution, cities and outlining regions are forming joint purchasing committees. This allows larger jurisdictions to lower their cost per unit and provides smaller communities with access to top-notch equipment. All parties in the region benefit from economies of scale, and this will become a growing trend in 2010.
New threats arise every day and law-enforcement officers, first responders and emergency- management teams are constantly facing new challenges and eagerly looking for individual protective equipment and systems that provide them with the highest level of protection, comfort and functionality – helping them do their jobs better.
Gary Dunn is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Avon Protection Systems Inc. (www.avon-protection.com). Avon Protection Systems is a leading designer and manufacturer of personal respiratory protection products, and offers the most comprehensive suite of solutions for a wide range of CBRN applications.