January 23, 2017
When you see firefighters in their recognizable protective gear, you know they are being shielded from the raging heat of the fire. But what you probably don’t think about is how that gear is made, out of what material and what does it take to ensure the safety of those wearing it.
For Betsy Dolinko, a 2010 graduate of the Mount Ida College Fashion Design program, that is her concern every day. As Quality Control Supervisor for Lion Apparel, www.lionprotects.com her job is to decontaminate, inspect and repair turnout gear and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to optimize protective performance and ensure the safety of the firefighters using the gear.
Dolinko began her pursuit of her career taking Fashion Merchandising and Marketing courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. “I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I liked working with my hands and decided a shift to Fashion Design and Mount Ida was the right move.”
Once at Mount Ida, Dolinko realized she had an affinity for working with industrial machines and fabrics. “I was able to launch my career as an industrial sewing machine operator and grew within the company to a higher position,” says Dolinko. “But it was my technical and mechanical skills that got me the job.”
Today, she works with a variety of specialized heat-resistant and strong synthetic fabrics that are thermal and water resistant. “Kevlar is one of the strongest materials and so the machinery we use is very heavy duty. Our largest clients at the Boston location are the Boston Fire Department, the Air National Guard and the US Coast Guard.”
Dolinko speaks proudly of what she considers a career highlight, as least so far. “In 2016, my company opened a new location in Memphis, TN. The Memphis Fire Department is about 400 fire fighters larger than the Boston Fire Department and I was sent down for three weeks to train all the staff and set up the machinery.”
She says she feels very fortunate to be doing what she loves and offers that advice to anyone thinking of entering the field. “For me, it didn’t matter whether I was working on silk or working on burlap, I knew I wanted to work with industrial machines. I followed what I enjoyed and stumbled upon an industry I never even considered entering. It is an honor to keep our fire fighters safe and I am very proud to do the work that I do.”