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Firefighting gear doesn't fit women well; FSU researcher working to change that

Women in fire rescue regularly use uniforms designed for men. An FSU research received a FEMA grant to continue research into developing female uniforms.
Uniform issues for female firefighters being addressed by Florida State researcher
Posted at 5:28 PM, Oct 05, 2023
  • Dr. Meredith McQuerry, associate professor and researcher at FSU, received $1.5 million to continue research and development of female firefighter uniforms
  • Women in fire rescue are 33% more likely to be injured as a result of ill-fitting uniforms
  • Local firefighter Natalie Rader talks us through her current gear and how it could be
    improved in the video above.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

The number of women in fire rescue continues to rise, but their uniforms are falling behind.

"We've been engrained and we don't know any different."

I'm Alberto Camargo in Collegetown, where research is being done at Florida State University to fix this. To get an idea of where improvements could be made, I stopped by one of our fire stations to see what changes are needed and here's what I found:

Natalie Rader is a firefighter EMT at a station not far from FSU, and she says women are at a disadvantage on day 1.

"Just going through fire school, automatically all the gear is made for men."

Natalie pointed out several issues. Gloves that are too large, pants that get in the way and a hood that is too short for hair when tied up. But a solution is in the works.

Dr. Meredith McQuerry received a 1.5 million dollar grant from FEMA to continue her research into making uniforms that actually fit women of all body types. She says this initial project is for the coat and pants, with further projects in the works to resolve things like gloves, helmets and boots.

"First we want to get their main primary pieces of PPE solved, and then we can begin to tackle those elements."

There are about 90,000 women in fire rescue in this country according to the National Fire Protection Association, yet uniforms are designed for men. McQuerry says women have a 33% higher chance of injury as a result.

Natalie says in a line of work as dangerous as hers, this is not acceptable.

"This is PPE, it's life-saving gear, you know. It prevents injury, it keeps us safe. So you really want this to be comfortable, fit effectively and just make sure it works and keeps us safe.

Dr. McQuerry says following the three years of research and development, she hopes to start bringing these new female-fit uniforms to market. In Collegetown, I'm your neighborhood reporter Alberto Camargo, ABC27.