UPDATE: Gore Remediation Program and New GORE-SEAM® Tape Certifications Address Fire Department Needs
UPDATE - January 22, 2014
Elkton, Maryland, January 22, 2014 — Following its November 2013 Product Safety Alert for firefighter turnout gear, W. L. Gore & Associates has worked with fire departments, dealers, and manufacturers throughout North America to assess and reseal, as necessary, the seams of turnouts with Gore moisture barriers. In the first two months since the Alert, Gore has successfully remediated both stored and worn gear for metropolitan and volunteer departments that enrolled early-on in the remediation program. Industry response has been positive to Gore's remediation program, and Gore will continue to collaborate with all responding departments on potentially affected gear.
In conjunction with the remediation program, Gore has developed a new GORE-SEAM® tape. This new tape is unaffected by storage interactions, and it eliminates the need for new gear to be stored in open air. Turnout gear manufacturers are working to rapidly incorporate the new tape into their products utilizing Gore moisture barriers. Already, at least four manufacturers expect to complete certification near the end of January and to change production lines over to the new tape soon thereafter.
In the original Alert, Gore described potential interactions between the seam tape adhesive of fire-industry moisture barriers and other gear components when the turnout gear had been stored in its original packaging for three or more years. These interactions could result in sealed seams in the turnout gear that are no longer compliant to NFPA 1971. To address these concerns, Gore included in the Alert inspection instructions to determine if turnout gear utilizing Gore barriers was potentially affected; they also included storage instructions for unaffected gear. At the same time, Gore announced a remediation program and enrollment instructions for departments with potentially affected turnout gear containing Gore moisture barriers. To review the original firefighter Product Safety Alert and related FAQs, please visit www.GoreProtectiveFabrics.com/FirefighterProductSafetyAlert. To enroll in the remediation program, please call 1-800-455-4681.
About W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.
Gore is a technology-driven company focused on discovery and product innovation. Well-known for waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX fabric, the company’s portfolio includes everything from high-performance fabrics and implantable medical devices to industrial manufacturing components and aerospace electronics. Founded in 1958 and headquartered in Newark, Delaware, Gore employs more than 10,000 associates in 30 countries worldwide. Gore is one of a select few companies to appear on all of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For” lists since the rankings debuted in 1984. The company also appears regularly on similar lists around the world. Learn more at www.Gore.com.
Media Contact:: Marie Y. Smith 302.994.0117
IMPORTANT FIREFIGHTER PRODUCT SAFETY ALERT
FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS COULD RESULT IN RISK TO FIREFIGHTER SAFETY AND NONCOMPLIANCE WITH NFPA STANDARD 1971 and NFPA STANDARD 1851
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU READ THIS SAFETY ALERT CAREFULLY AND EXAMINE YOUR TURNOUT GEAR TO DETERMINE IF YOUR TURNOUT GEAR IS AFFECTED
W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc (“Gore”) has observed isolated incidents of seam tape separation in stored firefighter turnout gear utilizing both GORE-SEAM® tape and non-Gore seam tape (i.e., for Gore and non-Gore moisture barriers, respectively) when the gear has been stored in its original packaging for 3 or more years before being issued and worn.
When seam tape separation occurs, turnout gear may no longer be resistant to liquid penetration per the requirements of NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, and the inspection criteria of NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Firefighting and Proximity Firefighting. Gore’s initial efforts to identify and resolve this turnout gear issue have focused in North America, where the issue was first observed. In order to determine if there is a similar impact in other regions of the world, Gore recently extended its investigation globally, including initiating communications with European turnout gear manufacturers. No adverse effects have been reported to Gore with respect to this industry concern.
For its own response to this concern, and as a part of its continuing heritage of standing behind its products, W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. is implementing a seam tape remediation program for stored turnout gear that utilize Gore moisture barriers and are impacted by this situation. This remediation program involves a new GORE-SEAM® tape that is unaffected by the observed storage interactions. The remediation program is initially targeted in North America, and will be extended regionally if needed.
This alert, and its associated remediation plan, applies to the seam tape in turnout gear that has been in long-term storage, and specifically, to the seam tape in turnout gear utilizing the following Gore moisture barriers:
- CROSSTECH® Moisture Barrier (Type 2C)
- GORE® RT7100 Moisture Barrier (Type 3B and Type 3D)
- CROSSTECH® Black Moisture Barrier (Type 2F) [The seam tape issue discussed in this alert has not been observed with this moisture barrier, but could potentially be affected.]
[Note: Examples of label designations for garments utilizing Gore moisture barriers are provided at the end of this alert.]
This notification does not apply to:
- turnout gear with CROSSTECH® 3-layer Moisture Barrier (Type 4A) [The tape used with this moisture barrier is unaffected by this concern.]
- fire fighting footwear, fire fighting gloves, industrial/workwear apparel, non-flame resistant public safety garments, non- flame resistant military protective apparel , and Gore Consumer Fabrics apparel
In addition to the specific information provided below, additional Questions and Answers are provided on Gore’s website at www.GoreProtectiveFabrics.com/FirefighterProductSafetyAlert. You can also contact Gore at 1-800-455-4681.
This alert explains:  what gear is affected;  how to inspect your gear to determine whether it is affected;  what to do if your gear is affected, and;  the storage and interactions cause of this issue.
1. WHAT GEAR IS AFFECTED
- Gear that has been issued and worn and never in storage, is not affected. This gear is free of the seam tape separation concern.
- Gear that is, or was previously, stored in its original packaging for 3 or more years, whether or not it was subsequently issued and worn, could potentially be affected. That gear must be inspected according to section 2) below to determine if it is actually affected.
2. HOW TO INSPECT TO DETERMINE IF YOUR GEAR IS AFFECTED
- For issued and worn gear that has never been in storage:
- This gear is not affected. No remediation is needed.
- For gear stored in its original packaging for less than 3 years (for example, gear manufactured after December 2010):
- This gear should not be affected. No remediation is needed. To prevent potential future issues with this particular gear, immediately remove the gear from its packaging (bag and/or box) and store in an open fashion (e.g., on a hanger), being careful, as always, to avoid direct light or UV exposure.
- For gear that has been stored for 3 or more years but outside of/removed from its original packaging:
- This gear is not affected. No remediation is needed. [Note: It is known that gear opened and stored on hangers for long periods (5-10 years) have not shown any evidence of the interactions and seam tape separation discussed in this alert. It is unknown whether gear opened and stored folded on a shelf outside of its packaging would also show no evidence of interactions.]
- For issued and worn gear that was previously stored for 3 or more years in its original packaging (based on storage inventory logs):
- This gear must be washed according to established 1851 protocols and inspected with the liner opened (similar to a Complete Liner Inspection process to view the seam tape) to verify whether or not the gear is potentially affected. (Refer to photos in section  below describing the seam tape separation issue for verification.) If gear is affected, enrollment in Gore’s remediation program is needed.
- For gear stored in its original packaging for 3 or more years, and still in its original packaging:
- This gear is potentially affected. For example, gear manufactured prior to December 2010 and stored in its original packaging for 3 or more years could potentially be affected. Enrollment in Gore’s remediation program is needed.
If remediation is necessary, Gore will ensure that the gear is prepped and re-seam sealed using the new GORE-SEAM® tape. See Section 3 below for detailed enrollment instructions. Based on the NFPA 1851 ten year retirement clause, enrollment is limited to gear manufactured after December 2003.
3. WHAT TO DO IF YOUR GEAR IS AFFECTED
If you or your Fire Department is in possession of affected or potentially affected gear, or if your Independent Service Provider (ISP) is in possession of gear it has determined after washing and inspecting to be affected or potentially affected:
- Set the affected gear aside, and do not use it.
- Go to www.GoreProtectiveFabrics.com/FirefighterProductSafetyAlert, and use the Enrollment/Contact Form to enroll in the remediation program or call 1-800-455-4681 to speak directly with a remediation program associate. Include in the subject line: “Enrollment in GORE-SEAM® tape Remediation Program”
- Gore will email a submittal form that needs to be filled-out and return emailed to Gore. The following information will be required:
- Department/Dealer/ISP name, shipping address, contact, contact’s phone number and email
- Total number of garments
- For each piece of gear:
- Serial number
- Date of manufacture
- Country of origin
- Is the gear primary and without back-up?
- A shipping form and instructions for completing both forms will also be included.
- Gore will send the necessary shipping information and instructions to ship the gear to Gore (or to the manufacturer if in Canada), at Gore’s expense. Included will be the estimated time for repair of the gear with new GORE-SEAM® tape.
- Once the remediation is complete, the gear will be shipped back to the Fire Department (to the provided shipping address) ready for use.
4. THE ISSUE
When turnout gear is stored for 3 or more years in its original packaging, interactions can occur between other components in the gear and the seam tape adhesive that may affect the adhesion and cause the seam tape to ‘pillow’ or ‘lift’ [Note: This same interaction may be the cause of some of the hook and loop fraying that has also been observed in the affected gear]. The seam tape ‘pillowing’ or ‘lifting’ typically starts from the center area of the tape and may, eventually, progress to the point of partial or complete separation of the seam tape.
Note: ‘Pillowing’ is typically still compliant with NFPA 1971 and NFPA 1851, but still requires remediation.
This issue appears unique to interactions that develop between the seam tape adhesive and other components in firefighter turnout gear; after much investigation, it has only been observed in turnout gear that has been stored in its original packaging for 3 or more years. The same GORE-SEAM® tape utilized in the affected gear has, however, also been utilized in 5-10 year old gear which was removed from its original packaging on delivery and stored on hangers, and which has not shown any evidence of the interactions discussed above. Additionally, this same part number GORE-SEAM® tape, when stored simply as an un-applied roll, has shown no issue (i.e., no interactions and no impact on the seam tape adhesive) in over two decades of storage. Whether the interactions are a function of gear not being stored in open air, or whether non-seam-tape turnout components have changed in some fashion, is not completely clear at this time.
As a part of its investigation and industry response, Gore has been able to develop a new GORE-SEAM® tape for use in its remediation program. Gore has sufficiently applied accelerated laboratory aging techniques to generally replicate the issue being observed, and the new GORE-SEAM® tape has been tested and shown to be markedly unaffected by the interactions with other turnout gear components. This new GORE-SEAM® tape is currently being introduced to turnout gear manufacturers using Gore moisture barriers, and should be fully in place even for new gear by the start of 2014.
It is important that any affected turnout gear be removed from service and not used in any firefighting situations until the product issue is repaired. Affected turnout gear may no longer resist the penetration of liquids to the levels required by NFPA 1971, and by NFPA 1851.
Note: The industry seam issue discussed in this alert is uniquely different from what appears to be increasing industry concerns involving the impact of cleaning procedures and/or chemicals used in the field, and the potentially negative effects on the durability of various garment components such as snaps, hook & loop fasteners, moisture barriers, para-aramid fibers, and labels. While this is a vast and difficult topic to understand completely, it is another area where Gore is working to identify specific causes, has and is continuing to advance Gore's products to further improve durability, and is standing behind its products when the moisture barrier is inappropriately affected.
Examples of label designations of garments utilizing Gore moisture barriers
Per NFPA 1971 requirements, garment manufacturers are required to list on the garment label the date of manufacture and the principal materials of construction used in the gear, including the identity of the moisture barrier component. Below are examples (non-exhaustive) of Gore moisture barrier component identifications found in turnout gear labels:
- “PTFE – LAMINATE ARAMID: CROSSTECH”
- “Moisture Barrier CROSSTECH TYPE 2C”
- “5.0 oz CROSSTECH (PTFE)/ 3.2 oz Nomex”
- “CROSSTECH on Nomex IIIA”
- “PTFE Laminate Aramid RT7100”
- “Moisture Barrier RT7100 TYPE 3B”
As the leader in the development of innovative barrier products in the firefighting industry, Gore is diligently notifying our customers and end users of the potential for this seam tape issue, and is encouraging inspection of potentially affected turnout gear utilizing Gore moisture barriers. Gore stands behind its products and is committed to their unwavering quality and safety. As well, Gore is committed to the satisfaction of its end-user customers.
If you have any questions or need additional information regarding this Safety Notice, including how to detect and remedy the issue, please refer to Gore’s website at www.GoreProtectiveFabrics.com/FirefighterProductSafetyAlert, or contact Gore at 1-800-455-4681.