As fires, explosions or hurricanes rip through an area, police and tactical teams don’t have time to test for deadly chemicals or contaminants before expediting search, rescue or security duties.

footwear2.gifUntil 2008, however, LE and tactical personnel didn’t have access to the same high-end footwear that has long protected firefighters and emergency-medical pros from deadly airborne and liquefied agents sometimes contaminating emergency sites. Although LE often had adequate gloves and clothing to protect their bodies and hands in recent years, they were often left vulnerable “where the rubber meets the road,” their feet. And because natural disasters and man-made emergencies are so unpredictable, it’s crucial for these professionals to be properly equipped when they arrive. Whether standing in puddles, assisting fallen victims, or sloshing through flooded streets, police officers and tactical teams risk their feet and health to battery acids, chlorine, hydraulic fluid, gasoline, diesel fuel, AFFF (firefighting foams) and other chemicals; as well as bacteria and viruses carried by the victims’ urine, saliva or blood.

W.L. Gore worked with footwear manufacturers to bring out several lines of specialty boots featuring its latest, most durable CrossTech moisture-barrier fabrics. CrossTech not only keeps its wearers dry, it shields them from deadly fluids and common chemicals while allowing sweat to escape the boot. As a result, operators remain dry, safe and comfortable.

Concerns Warranted
Concerns about pathogens and chemicals have obviously risen in recent years because of increased threats from terrorism. For instance, many search-and-rescue teams, including some FEMA teams that helped after the Oklahoma City bombing 14 years ago, wore protective clothing made from early versions of CrossTech fabrics. Research also shows, however, that police face regular threats during daily, more routine emergencies. An analysis by the UK’s Fire & Rescue Service found that exposures to blood and body fluids pose far greater risks than those from heat and flame. More specifically, 60 percent of incidents requiring police and emergency personnel were road-traffic accidents, while five to 10 percent were fires. And because accident victims are often contaminated by their own blood and body fluids, police and rescue personnel routinely run the risk of being exposed to HIV (AIDS), Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections.

W.L. Gore has a long history of outfitting emergency personnel with high-tech performance clothing and protective gear. “We first put Gore-Tex into firefighting gear in the late 1970s so firefighters could wear something besides rubberized, nonbreathable equipment. Then we created CrossTech in the mid-1990s. It’s not only waterproof and breathable, but it also protects people from blood-borne pathogens and the five common chemicals outlined by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association),” said Bill Candy, Gore’s product line manager for CrossTech.

Until about five years ago, CrossTech fabrics were used almost exclusively in firefighting clothes, and weren’t available for LE. “For several years, everything we made was related to the NFPA specifications, but LE didn’t necessarily need clothes with those specs, and they didn’t want the steel toes required for footwear. But they work at many of the same scenes as firefighters, and they’re at risk of walking through chemicals and other contaminants, so they let us know they needed more protection. We also heard from corrections officers who can be exposed to blood and bodily fluids. So, we started making CrossTech clothes for them about three years ago, and then introduced the CrossTech Footwear Fabric this year,” Candy said.

Versatile, Durable Footwear
The boot companies working with the CrossTech fabric are Bates (Wolverine), Danner, HAIX, Matterhorn and Timberland. CrossTech provides boot manufacturers the option of using fabric, leather or a combination of the two in the boot’s uppers to ensure flexibility, durability and breathability. Here’s a look at some of the current models:
• Bates combined its patented DuraShocks technology with CrossTech in 6- and 8-inch side-zipped boots with leather/nylon uppers.
• Danner’s Striker II Assault boot features full-grain leather and breathable quarter-panels for durability and comfort. It’s built with Danner’s Terra Force X Lite performance platform, which features a slip-resistant outsole for extra stability, and the puncture-resistant Flex-Shield II midsole.
• HAIX offers the Airpower X1 EMS/station boot, which uses CrossTech with its Micro Soft Light System. This keeps the abrasion-resistant CrossTech liner securely in place so it can’t crumple or pull out.

What’s Next for W.L. Gore?

As Gore rounds out its tactical lines, complementing its array of CrossTech gloves and clothing, it’s also expanding its breathable/protective fabrics the military. Gore’s ChemPak fabric is now being used for a breathable sock that soldiers and Marines can wear inside their boots to protect themselves from chemical agents.

Candy said, “They just bought a couple hundred-thousand pairs,” Candy said. “We’re seeing increasing demand for these fabrics because they allow us to provide lightweight, comfortable, versatile gear that takes protection to a new level for everyone.”

For More Information: W.L. Gore and Associates and CrossTech Footwear Fabric: Technical Fabrics Division, 800-431-4673;; Bates Footwear (A Division of Wolverine World Wide): 800-253-2184;; Danner: 877-432- 6637;; HAIX North America: 859-281-0111;; Matterhorn: Cove Shoe Co., 107 Highland St., Martinsburg, PA 16662; (800) 441-4319;; The Timberland Co.: 603-772-9500;

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