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I was in a discussion (OK, argument) with a few colleagues the other day, about how helmets have progressed through the years. It seems that US and Europe have taken wildly different paths.

In the US, the traditional leather helmet has given way (not for everyone of course, some still prefer leather) to plastic ones like the Ben II, but they have retained their shape through the years. In Europe, however, helmets have progressed from rimmed top-domes to full domes like the Gallet/MSA F1, which fully cover your head, ears and back, and have two face shields plus quick-release catches for your SCBA mask, so there's no need to remove the helmet for donning it.

My question is - are there any figures as to how many (if any) accidents could have been avoided by the use of full-dome helmets versus traditional US type helmets? I have to say that in my years in the service, I have only had things falling at me from above, so a full dome would not have provided much more protection, but maybe others have different experiences than me.

Be safe,


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Mike- I tried to do some net research for your question and came up empty handed. I like the traditional helmet my self, but it sure would be nice to not have to remove the helmet to Donn the mask. Great forum, I will keep trying to find some answers- Todd
Several years ago, I had a Captain that bought one of the first "fighter pilot" helmets that became available in the US(I think it was a Fire Knight?). Besides the usual ribbing he took from the fellas, he quickly put it back on the shelf. He complained of it being hot, cumbersome, and too complicated.
My thoughts are that, while a good idea, this type of helmet wouldn't be something you could just throw on your 'ol noggin' while working around the drill field or after a scene, when you still need some kind of protection. Once again, too hot and probably hard to hear. Also, while I don't agree with using my ears as a temperature gauge, most of today 's experts claim that we are getting too deep in while working a good burner. Wouldn't this type of helmet just make this type of behavior worse? Would it provide some kind of false sense of security? Once again, hearing may also be impaired.
I'm sure the Europeans have figured some of these things out, but I do think that sometimes we are too eager (Americans) to jump on the bandwagon.
Like you said, I've only had things fall down on my head, but that may be a narrow point of view. Besides, there's nothing better looking than a good leather fire helmet.
Good question, Brother. Stay safe. Ben FTM-PTB
Thanks Todd, that's what I also saw - there doesn't seem to be much concrete evidence to defend a full dome approach, other than static side impact tests, so as far as I can tell, it's all theory.
I perefer the Traditional over the Pilot stlye helmet. I found that those that wear the Pilot helmet complain its to hot and to cumbersome.

As for the debate between the Europe and North America way of firefighting, the debate will always get heated. We N.A folks love and stand by our tradition and thats what sets on different paths. As for the fires we fight they are different the building constructions and so on. The same as we in the east fight fires differently then those in the West.

We are more aggressive then Europe Firefighters. But again I think the techniques we use allow for it. Ive heard alot of English / French / German Firefighters in forums call the americans and us canadians wild cowboys who are hero seekers? Are we? I say no its just the way we do things. they wear and do what they want as we do the same. However when it comes to flashovers they are teaching us alot.

As for taking the helmet off to don your mask? Why are you taking your helmet off, I tossmy helmet backwards and the Chinstrap keeps it there. I mask up and pull it forward away I go.

Just my thoughts and a little off topic. Sorry about that :)
It's true that tactics are very different across both sides of the pond, and also how identifying and reacting to flashovers has progressed. I personally see nothing wrong in being more aggressive as long as you are aware of the consequences, and there is a clear and worthy outcome. A commander in a battlefield may send his troops to face a tank division knowing he might sustain heavy losses, but the reward could also be significant. Simply sending them to be slaughtered when there is no chance of a positive outcome (in our case, a life saved) is reckless and stupid.

In our case, the reward should be to save life. Saving an empty building is not worth even a scratch on a firefighter, and this is where I think things are changing in the US lately. In short words from a wise old man, risk should be balanced against a clear objective.
Well Said and agree 100%
I prefer the traditional helmet for looks and the tradition it represents. In training I find the domed helmets do better in confined spaces and don't get tangled on wires as easily as traditional helmets.

Be safe
Hi Mike,
For the last few years I have been using the Gallet/MSA helmet. And as I must say they are comfortable to wear and the SCBA is very easy to attach. No more hassle with taking the helmet of in a potential dangerous area. The design of the helmet, together with the woolen neckpart makes a flashover hood obsolete. Losing my mask because of something hitting my helmet has never occured. The donning of the mask with the new MSA mask is even easier because of the flexible quick-release catch. Before the Gallet I had to use a special model, "the Dutch model". With it you had to use a mask with straps, mutch like the traditional mask. I am happy we switched to Gallet design. One of the other advantages is that because the helmet is wrapped around your head you don't have to get used to any rims or so sticking out that make you bang into things.
And when it comes to hearing, no problem with that. It is even possible to have a microphone/speaker for your portable radio fixed into your helmet. But I do agree that the traditional helmet looks more traditional. :-)

Oh, and yes I have used that helmet indeed in an European country; The Netherlands..
You have awakened some very interesting response. As you know, I have had experience with the Gallet/MSA helmet since their introduction in Spain nearly 20 years back. However, I remain consistant with my opinions on this concept:

- Your head IS more protected as the helmet surrounds the skull.
- Mask donning/doffing IS quicker with the clip type fixtures.
- Communications accesories are indeed available, including a skull mike that is very reliable and clear.


- You cannot hear the building's creaks and moans as walls and/or ceilings start to fail.
- Nor can you hear those small kids or elderlies who tend to take refuge inside closets, under bed or in bathtubs
crying for help.
- The enclosing factor of the helmet retains a great amount of heat, particularly dangerous on pre-flashover conditions.
This also reduces those built-in thermal sensors that are nearly fool proof.
- The flairing of the "traditional" helmet helps keep falling and possibly burning debrise from gettings between your collar
and your neck. The designers had to add the flairing onto the helmet after some nasty experiences with the first units.
- If you have a "Jimmy Durante nose", you cannot use the fitted goggle shield.

As I have told many students (in not a too joking mood); give me a stylish turnout jacket with lots of flashy reflective stripes,
a chome finish Gallet helmet and a big Harley Davidson, and I'll make any chick in town, but this Jake will not wear this helmet in an confined space fire.

The design concept has provoked a great amount of discussion around the world, which goes to show that a great number of our brothers DO think about our safety and make opinions shown in forums such as this one.

I hope that more of you guys get into this one.

Keep safe out there.

George Potter
I was firefighter in Santiago which is in Chile, Southamerica. A well developed country compared to some of our neighbors on that region. The culture and of course the Fire Service is very influenced by Europe, However I believe is one of the few countries you can find a mix in training and equipment, coming from the U.S. and Europe. If you have the chance to go there don't be surprised to find a French, Spanish or German fire truck with FFs wearing SCOTT airpacks and leather helmets (americans) or American style bunker gears... There is always been that big question from some of my ex-colleagues down there... which one is better? American or European?... Some people will be very straight to tell you that MSA (European) helmets are better ( George Potter gave us some info) and one of the clearest examples is that this helmet allows a multifunction to structural fires, confined rescue, vehicle rescue, etc... wearing a traditional helmet model causes to take off your helmet everytime you need to enter one of those spaces (sometimes)... As George Potter stated I think that the use of this helmet inside a confined space operation is very dangerous and a huge disvantage versus the "American style" (modern or traditional)... we need to see and hear as much as we can to accomplish a safe operation, and personally ( having used the European style and American) I do prefer the hood covering my hear that this helmet: at least from my experience I could feel the heat more than with the helmet and realizing that during and interior attack can give you clues about if the interior conditions are safe or not.

I believe... this is all about culture and the way people think different in this world.

Be safe,
2 words: Leather Forever!
-To answer your question, at this time, having performed several types of searches, I can find no quantifiable data (lots of opinion) as to one type of helmet being safer than another based on helmet design.
-The general consensus is that the key safety component is that the helmet, whatever design, be worn correctly in accordance with the manufacturer design and intention.
-That being said.... LEATHER FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!

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