Our Commitment to Listening at LION

February 8, 2024 | Karen Lehtonen

Our Commitment to Listening

At LION, innovation underpins everything we do. In the 125 years we’ve been in operation, first responder safety gear has advanced significantly to become safer, more comfortable, more durable, and easier to wear and care for. And LION has proudly played a key role in many of those innovations for one main reason – we listen.


Our ultimate goal is to design and manufacture protective gear that suits your needs.


Yes, we want to manufacture gear that keeps you as safe as possible. But we also want to design comfortable, easy-to-wear, and durable gear. First and foremost, that means seeking the input of the people actually wearing our gear – there’s no place better to get feedback than from those who are battle-testing our gear day in, day out.


Take for example the reflective trim found on turnout gear. Under National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, retroreflective tape is required on all firefighting turnout gear as it makes firefighters more visible in low light conditions. Historically, the retroreflective tape used was a solid strip of coated impermeable material sewn onto a garment.


However, LION heard from firefighters that they were getting burns and scalds underneath the retroreflective tape, especially around their wrists and upper arms. The solid strip of material and the material underneath was storing energy which could then release when compressed resulting in burns on the firefighter's skin. Our research and development team got to work on a solution that would meet the existing safety standards and retain the safety benefits of the retroreflective tape while reducing the associated burn risk. It was from these efforts that LION developed perforated retroreflective trim, which allows the stored energy to escape and reduces the risk of burns, without compromising the safety benefits of the reflective trim. LION’s innovative ventilated trim now represents the gold standard in trim design across the industry.



We’ve also found that just because something has always been done a certain way, that doesn’t mean it is the best way.


Hook and loop is a common component of all fire safety gear, but it isn’t really designed for the industry. It can wear out quickly with repeated use, it doesn’t have high heat durability, and it can be costly to replace. In fact, it is excluded from many NFPA tests relative to heat and flame resistance. However, for many years it was the only option because nothing more suitable for firefighting was brought to market.


One of the pieces of feedback we received from many firefighters was that their hook and loop was constantly wearing out and the replacement cost over the gear's lifetime was turning into one of the highest costs associated with maintaining their gear. To meet firefighters’ needs for a more durable mechanism, we began using magnets to replace hook and loop as a secondary closure on garments.


Our conversations don’t end with the end user – we’re also constantly listening and working with partners from other industries to learn how they’re approaching gear safety and to determine if there are any innovations that we could adopt. We consult with partners in the military, homeland security and sport sectors, and have even incorporated innovations from NASA in our gear. We seek input from areas within our supply chain, from our distribution partners, and academic research centers such as the North Carolina State University Textile Protection and Comfort Center. When it comes to finding the best solutions for our gear, no stone goes unturned.


We can’t forget the invaluable insight we gain from our own employees, who share our commitment to manufacturing gear that suits the users’ needs. Their hands-on involvement in the manufacturing process allows them to identify what features work well and what we can change to improve the gear's form, fit, and function.


There’s no telling how gear safety will evolve in the decades to come. Wherever it goes, know that LION will be here, listening to determine how we can manufacture the safest gear that suits you. As always, we invite those using our gear to share how that gear has worked for them, or even how we could improve it to work better. Share your story with us here: https://www.lionprotects.com/share-your-story.


Karen Lehtonen

Written by Karen Lehtonen

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