So, let’s start our discussion on clothing …
Clothing is another form of shelter we must consider for our disaster plan. As with structure, clothing protects us from the environment. Having the correct types of clothing will be critical during a disaster event; it could mean the difference between surviving and well, let’s call it – not surviving. Your actual clothing needs will be driven by the environment you are in:
- Where you live
- Where you work
- Where you will be traveling to
The protection associated with clothing is not just for the obvious reason – like a winter jacket during a winter storm – it goes much further than that. Having the correct clothing can also offer us protection from the dangerous ground debris that we may encounter – to the contaminants that may be present in the air.
The correct type of clothing will protect us when we are trying to evacuate an impact area, while looking for a missed love one that may be trapped under ground debris, or returning to our homes after the event; having the correct clothing to protect us will be very important. This is even more so for children, the elderly and people who have certain health issues; having the correct type of clothing will be a major factor in their ability to survive the event. So let’s take a look at clothing and why having the correct type of clothing is so important.
How to choose the best clothing for our situation.
In order to decide on which will be the best clothing for our particular situation, we need to know a few basics about clothing and how it protects. You do this by understanding:
- What the clothing needs to protect us from
- What types of clothing materials are available
- Which is the best for our situation
Protection: Our clothing must protect us from: heat, cold, cut and puncture dangers, etc. Knowing the potential ways your clothing will come into play from a protection stand point will help us determine the best type of clothing we should consider. Materials: What are the best fabrics that we should consider during our selection of disaster clothing? Some fabrics offers superb protection from the cold, others will offer protection from the heat. There are several types of fabrics that need to be addressed depending upon what type of environment they are best suited.
What Our Clothing Needs to Protect Us From:
The Cold: Our clothing needs to protect us from the cold. Hypothermia is the #1 Killer of people outdoors. Depending upon the situation, hypothermia can set in within minutes. Hypothermia is when your body is losing heat faster than it can produce it, causing your core body temperature to drop to dangerous levels. The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia is when your core body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Initially, you start shivering (this is a sign that your body is trying to increase its temperature), followed by confusion (i.e. disorientation, slurred speech, and drowsiness). Once these symptoms set in, your ability to reason and make decisions is greatly reduced. It is not uncommon for someone to start undressing thinking that will solve the problem. Confusion can be followed by heart stoppage [a.k.a. death].
There are 4 Stages to Hypothermia:
Other than the air temperature itself, there are 2 other factors that can increase the chances of hypothermia: Wind and Moisture.
The wind is capable of stealing heat from your body and this factor must be taken into consideration. Wind Chill is the combination of wind and temperature. Think of it as what the temperature feels like against your skin. The higher the wind – the colder you will feel. So the ability of your clothes to shield you from the wind is an important feature to look for.
Moisture is the other factor we must consider. When you become wet, or when you perspire from doing vigorous activities, the wetness forming on your skin can diminish your ability to stay warm. If this wetness is transferred to the clothing – that may also reduce the effectiveness of the clothing to insulate you from the cold. When you are looking for clothing, look for clothing that is waterproof/water resistant and breathable (or ventilated) to control the amount of moisture that your body will be exposed to.
Regarding the clothing that comes into contact with your skin, look for clothing that has the ability to wick moisture away from your skin in order to control the wetness on your skin. Controlling this moisture will help control your ability to stay warm.
Remember to monitor and control your perspiration (sweating) during any vigorous activities while you are trying to keep warm. Perspiration can sneak up on you and may not even notice it until it’s too late. Recognize the activities that may cause you to sweat and limit them (as much as possible) during cold conditions.
Wool is the material of choice for protection from the cold. Wool will maintain its insulation properties even if it gets wet. Wool hats, scarfs, gloves and socks can offer very good protection for the extremities.
For the body core, arms and legs; Gore-Tex jackets and pants offer very good outer shell protection. This material is waterproof, windproof and breathable.
Gore-Tex was one of the first companies to offer a breathable waterproof clothing material. Gore-Tex is a very good product – but it is a bit on the expensive side. Since Gore-Tex entered the marketplace, several competitors have come in with their brands of waterproof, windproof and breathable products that are less expensive than Gore-Tex. These brands offer good alternatives for your protection from the cold.
It is a good idea to layer your clothing so that you can either add or remove clothing depending upon the conditions. This will help control perspiration and your ability to move around. Keep in mind when you layer clothing, that adding bulk may restrict your movement – you don’t want to end up looking like the Michelin Tire Man. You will need to maintain your mobility to get around and do things.
Also, keep in mind that with any system that involves multiple parts – the system is only as strong as its weakest link. So choose your outer and inner layers carefully when selecting winter clothing. Good options for cold protection with the under layers are: fleece and down filled products.
Our Solution Center offers several clothing options for your protection from the cold. Please visit us when you have finished this module.
The Heat: The opposite of being too cold is being too hot. [Duh!] So our clothes need to protect us from, or at least not add to, the heat problem. Hyperthermia is when your body produces or absorbs more heat than it can get rid of. Hyperthermia starts to set in when your core body temperature goes over 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A core body temperature that is over 104.0 degrees Fahrenheit is life threatening.
The Stages of Hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia can happen so quickly that the person may not even realize that it is happening.
Some common signs of hyperthermia are:
- Lack of sweating
- Dry skin
There are 2 ways to look at clothing as protection from heat; and each of them will need totally different tactics to address your protection in these scenarios.
- Protection from heat that is weather related.
- Protection from heat that is fire related.
Let’s discuss the weather related scenario first… Weather Related Heat.
Hyperthermia occurs mostly during the summertime and with heat waves (note: hyperthermia can also be triggered by certain types of medical conditions and drugs). The elderly and young children are most susceptible to hyperthermia, but anyone can suffer from hyperthermia – if they don’t take the right precautions during times of elevated temperatures.
Things you can do to lower your risk of Hyperthermia:
- Know the signs of hyperthermia.
- Drink plenty of fluids: water, fruit or vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol.
- Try to stay in your home or apartment and use fans or air conditioning.
- Try to get at least 2 hours a day in an air conditioned building: library, the mall, movie theatre, go to a friend’s house that has air conditioning, etc.
- If you must be outside – avoid the sun and try to stay in shaded areas.
- Avoid crowds. Crowds create heat.
- Plan any activities in the early morning, late evening or at night.
Clothing that will help keep you cool are:
- Cotton materials
- Light colors
- Loose fitting; you want air circulation around your body when possible. However, the clothing should not be so loose fitting that it will create dangers from snagging objects, or offer the potential from people being able to grab you when you are trying to evacuate an area.
Clothing as it relates to protection from Heat caused by Fire…
Before we start discussing how clothing can offer protection from heat caused by a fire, we just want to point out that 75% of the fire related deaths in US are caused by smoke inhalation. If you haven’t already done so – please check out the following pages: “Breathable Air” and “Protect Your Air Supply”.
OK, so let’s start talking about clothing that can help protect us from heat and fire.
Clothing can protect you from heat and fire in 2 key ways.
- Barrier: If there are any flying embers in the air from the fire, and an ember lands on you – the clothing will protect your skin by acting as a barrier between your skin and the ember.
- Insulator: Clothing can also offer (limited) insulation from the heat created by the fire.
For the cloth material to do these 2 functions – it must be flame retardant and be heavy enough to offer the insulating and barrier properties. You can get the flame retardant feature either through the natural characteristics of the cloth, or by adding flame retardant chemicals to the cloth.
If you are looking for a cloth material that is naturally flame retardant – the best option is clothing made of wool. Wool is one of the more difficult cloth materials to ignite and when it does catch fire it burns with a low flame velocity. The weight of weave of the cloth also plays an important factor in its ability to catch fire. Heavy and tight weaves burn slower than loose weaves and they also offer better insulating properties from the heat.
Avoid synthetic fabrics because once ignited they have a tendency to melt causing localized and severe burning. Avoid blends because the combination of the different types of material may actually increase the burn rate of the cloth.
Specific types of cloth materials to avoid in a Fire situation are:
Transport Canada Report: Aviation Safety Vortex 3/2004
Flame retardant chemicals that are added to the clothing are another option to consider – but remember, the effectiveness of these chemicals can be diminished by laundering. Make sure that you follow the cleaning directions very carefully. Keep in mind that the chemicals will eventually wash out. Final word if you are thinking about using flame retardant clothing to fight a fire rather than to escape a fire:
From the CERT Basic Training Manual: “The ability of a fire to burn (cause injury to a person) has two primary components: The Temperature of the fire and the Period of Time the victim is exposed.” Read: Get Out and Get Out Fast!
When I asked a seasoned professional firefighter what his opinion was regarding how much heat and how long he could stay in a burning building with his fire-fighting equipment on, his response was: “Not sure, that depends on many factors; but what I am sure of is: You get in quick – but you get out quicker“.
Please visit our Solution Center for several clothing options that will offer you protection from the heat.
Waterproof: Being able to keep water and moisture away from your body was discussed in great detail above. You should look at your waterproof clothing as an outer layer that is used to protect all of the internal layers of clothing. By making it a layer – you have the option of adding or removing your waterproofing as necessary. Some other reason that it is a good idea to treat waterproofing as a layer is that these types of materials are:
- Do not offer the best protection from fire dangers.
- Are highly susceptible to punctures and scraping damage.
The following terms are commonly referred to when discussing waterproof clothing:
- Breathable: Breathable material allows perspiration generated by the body to pass through the protective material (clothing) to the outside and away from the skin. This allows you to stay dry during vigorous activities. This is a highly desirable feature to have in your clothing that is waterproof.
- Waterproof/Non-breathable: Keeps the water out – but will also keep your perspiration in. This is the least expensive in the series of waterproof types of material. These are the plastic / vinyl rain jackets, ponchos, or slickers that you see at the department stores. If you ever wore one for any length of time, you probably found out that you got just as wet from your perspiration as if you would from the rain if didn’t have one at all. Hey – but depending upon the situation – it could be better than nothing. But not by much.
- Waterproof/Breathable: This type of material not only stops the rain or snow from getting through, but also allows your perspiration to escape from under the clothing keeping you dry. This is the best of both worlds. This option is usually the most expensive.
- Water-Resistant: Will stop light rain for a short period of time. Any heavy rains with wind will eventually penetrate the material. This material is breathable. This material option is usually priced mid-range.
Windproof: Wind is another culprit that can steal heat away from your body and can also have an impact on the waterproof properties of the clothing. High winds along with a rain can compromise the water protection associated with water-resistant clothing. Most of the time, if the piece of clothing is waterproof – then most likely it also will be windproof.
Along with the term windproof, you will find another designation called wind-resistant. These types of clothing are usually light weight and can be rolled up into a small package for easy carry. They offer some protection, but in a major storm they are basically worthless. Good idea to keep one in your backpack for basic protection on those cool light windy days. Our Solution Center offers many options for waterproof and windproof clothing.
Cut and Puncture Resistant: During a disaster event there is a good chance you will be exposed to ground debris that can injure you by: puncturing, cutting or scraping your skin. This not only can do the obvious harm of inflicting a wound but also can cause infections. You want to avoid infections at all costs during a disaster event. Infections can grow into big problems within a few days.
Ground debris will be infested with germs, bacteria, parasites and other things that if introduced onto, or into, your skin can cause serious infections. There is also a very good chance that the ground debris will have toxic chemicals associated with them. These chemicals can enter your body either through absorption through the skin or by injection through the skin via a cut, puncture, or abrasion. You need to take as many precautions as you can from the dangers of ground debris.
The Dangers Associated with Ground Debris:
Cuts, Punctures, Infections & Poisonous Toxic Chemicals.
There are 3 popular choices of materials when it comes to cut and puncture resistance cloth materials: Kevlar, Dyneema and Stainless Steel. Stainless Steel offers very good protection, but due to its ability to conduct electricity, we will eliminate this option from our discussion because of the potential problems that it presents. The cloth materials cut resistance is ranked on a scale of 1 (Lowest Level of Protection) to 5 (Highest Level of Protection).
Superior Glove has a very good infographic regarding “Understanding Cut Resistance Levels”. This infographic discusses: The Ranking System, How the Test are Performed, and the Cut Resistant Levels of various type of materials. Thank you Superior Glove.
As stated earlier in this lesson, there is a very good chance that we may be exposed to ground debris while we are:
- Operating inside an impacted area
- Evacuating an impacted area
- Returning back to an impacted area
Needless to say, it will be very important to protect your head, hands, arms and feet from any cut or puncture wounds from the ground debris. Please visit the Solution Center for clothing that will help prevent you from puncture and cut wounds.
- Completed your Risk Assessment and have identified the most likely disaster events you will be exposed to.
- Identify what major types of protection you will need: Cold, Heat, Wet, Cut & Puncture, etc.
- Put a list together of the clothing you currently have:
- Evaluate if your current clothing inventory does (or does not) meet your requirements.
- Identify the clothing you need to get to ensure that you and your family will be safe during the next disaster event.
- Visit the Solution Center and get the protective disaster clothing that what you need for you and your family.
- Side Note: If you are working with a tight budget – please check out alternative sources for clothing:
- Goodwill Shops
- Consignment Shops
- eBay and other on-line sources.
- Relatives with children a little older than yours. [This is where my parents got 80% of my clothes when I was growing up.]
Please visit Practical Disaster Planning’s Solution Center for a complete line of clothing that has been specifically selected for usage during disaster events.
Clothes that look cool even when there are no disasters going on!
Look good every day and be ready when you need to be ready.
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