New England Cable News (NECN) reports about UniFirst and their donation of 400 flame resistant shirts to the Massachusetts National Guard.
Greg (newscaster): Some of the most dangerous jobs in the world these days are found in Iraq and Afghanistan. That work is sometimes a matter of life or death for citizens and military personnel serving in those countries. Now, a company in Wilmington, Massachusetts is giving an extra layer of protection to men and women in uniform. Mont Fennel is in the newsroom with the mission at UniFirst. Hi, Mont.
Mont Fennel: Hi, Greg. UniFirst is a publicly traded company. It supplies uniforms around the world. It was founded in 1936. Now more recently, it's developed flame resistant clothing supplied to companies like British Petroleum and New York Power Authority. Now, US soldiers headed to Iraq may be able to sleep a bit easier knowing that their T-shirts will help retard fire.
Sgt. George Pozo: When we got attacked and got ambushed, we got hit by rocket-propelled grenades and trucks got blown up, stuff was on fire.
Mont Fennel: When Sgt. George Pozo's army caravan was hit in Afghanistan, he was nearly burned by flames. He knows the need to have the best possible protective gear like this fire resistant T-Shirt.
Sgt. George Pozo: It's like a second layer you have of skin before you actually get burnt.
Mont Fennel: A Wilmington, Mass. Based company just donated more than 400 of the shirts to the Massachusetts National Guard. UniFirst makes protective garments mostly for oil companies and electric utilities. The shirts are made from smart fibers which snuff out fires.
Ken Tokarz: That means the skin tissue will not become as injured. The most debilitating injuries today are caused by continuing of burning of clothing.
Mont Fennel: We tested one. The self-extinguishing material does burn, but not much. That's because it has chemically treated fibers which need 28% oxygen to thoroughly burn. That's 7% more than what's found in air.
Sgt. Allen Hughes: They're impregnating it with a similar chemical that they'd use for Halloween costumes or children's night clothing.
Mont Fennel: Staff Sgt. Allen Hughes lit up this standard issue army shirt with a small flame from a match. It took a few seconds to get going, but once it did, the plastic fibers in this polyester blend dripped hot.
Sgt. Allen Hughes: It punched a nice little hole in the bottom half of the shirt. That's all the drippings. It's still warm. It's actually… That'll burn you.
Mont Fennel: Army personnel not only face roadside bombs, but also repair-sabotaged oil pipelines with welding torches and fix damaged power lines which can arc current. And in the workplace, 5% of all injuries come from burns, but they account for 40% of Worker's Compensation costs.
Ken Tokarz: Because of the lengthier recuperation period involved with burns.
Mont Fennel: Since 2000, UniFirst's stock price has more than tripled. The company's doing more than $800 million in sales per year. The majority of the company's revenue comes from work clothing and uniforms mostly rented out to companies.
Ken Tokarz: We have a product that people need and… which is essentially insulated against ups and downs of the economy.
Mont Fennel: Flame resistant clothing makes up just 5% of business, but for the past three years, the segment's been growing about 40% per year. UniFirst says it's donated these shirts to the National Guard as an act of patriotism.
Ken Tokarz: We felt it was just a good thing to do.
Sgt. Allen Hughes: They're not thinking inside their own little box there. They're actually concerned about people.
Mont Fennel: Now, the fire resistant T-shirts are being allocated to 436 Guardsman headed to Iraq and it's about half the state's National Guard. In the newsroom, Mont Fennel, NECN.