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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Week Six - Air


Quickstart:


Check and Test your smoke alarms and change the batteries if you didn't when daylight savings time began.

Don't have fire alarms. Even if you rent, go buy one for each floor of your home, and install according to the directions, today.

Blog Post:

Many weeks ago, I promised I would write about air, the most important element to survival after thinking. Let me begin.

We take it for granted, until you need it. Struggling to reach the surface of the lake as your lungs beg to exhale and breath fresh air, choking on the smoke as you crawl from your burning home, or dry land drowning as your lungs fill with fluid as a toxic cloud drifts through your work place from a terrorist attack.

Air and the oxygen it contains is important to our survival, so how do you obtain air in an emergency?

You are going to have to spend some money and/or learn some techniques to use when you need air.

The first technique, I use when swimming underwater. As you swim underwater, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) builds up in your lungs. If enough carbon dioxide enters your lungs, your body sends a signal to your brain to breath. If you slowly exhale, a little bit of the air in your lungs and some of the excess CO2 is released. The body's mechanism for breathing will be temporally overridden, so you can swim a little farther underwater.

Remember opinions, it has worked for me in a non-emergency situation; it might not work for you.

There is a similar method that SCUBA divers use, but this keeps their lungs from bursting. As the diver gets closer to the surface, the air in her lungs expand. The air must be exhaled to keep the lungs from over expanding and bursting. Remember this technique if you ever have to come up from a submerged wreck.

Your laying in bed and all of a sudden a loud noise sounds.

What's that noise? It's the fire alarm!

Roll out of bed to the floor. Don't sit up because the hot, toxic smoke from the fire raises to the ceiling. This smoke can disorient you or cause you to pass out. Quickly leave the building.

There is more to surviving a fire, but this post is about air.

With that said, you can purchase a smoke hood. These hoods protect you from the toxic gases produced by a house or workplace fire. No matter the type, you want one that has a hood that will cover your head, is compact, and easy to use.

When I researched this a couple of years ago. The Evac-U8 was the best smoke hood. It had a hood that was totally clear. Filtered out carbon monoxide, and was easy to put on and seal.

Some of the masks have a hood that has a small viewing area, once the mask was on. Since hoods can shift, your view may be blocked as you try to escape. The Evac-U8 has a clear hood. If it shifts, you can still see.

Some masks have a head harness to place the filter by your mouth and nose. The head harness takes practice to use quickly. The Evac-U8 has no head harness. It has a nose piece to close your nose, and the filter that goes in your mouth.

Some smoke hoods don't filter carbon monoxide or are only good for 5 minutes. The Evac-U8 is good for 15 minutes.

Lastly, the Evac-U8 has a training hood for 1/3 to 1/2 the price of an actual smoke hood, so you and your family can train with the mask.

With all that praise for the Evac-U8. It has recently been recalled, by the manufacturer, for all models sold September 2000 to March 2006.

Remember those opinions, the Evac-U8 is near the top of my list for must buys for my family.

Smoke hoods are only good for chemicals produced in a fire. If there is a chemical spill or a chemical weapons attack, you will need a protective mask.

Protective masks are designed to protect the respiratory tract, your esophagus and lungs, and the eyes. Avoid the ones that lack protection for the eyes. Some chemicals, like chlorine, will damage your eyes.

A protective mask protects you by using a filter. The filter traps the dangerous chemicals. Some filters are contained in the mask (internal) and some filters are external. The United States military M17 series (M17, M17A1, and M17A2) protective mask and the soviet M10-M mask have an internal filter. The British S10 and the US M40 protective masks have external filters.

The internal filters are very hard to change. There is also the chance of damaging the mask when changing the filters. You will also need another mask if you plan to change filters in a contaminated environment. The reason, you have to take the mask off to change the filters.

If you know any US military vets; ask her/him how hard it was to change the filters on a M17 series mask. It will be the same for a soviet M10-M protective mask.

The external filters are the easiest to change. Hold your breath, unscrew the filter, screw a new filter on, and clear the mask. 45 seconds and your done.

You can spend varying amounts of money for a protective mask anywhere from $10 for a surplus Israeli civilian mask to $300 for a new MSA Millennium CBRN protective mask.

Some people will tell you to totally avoid surplus masks. Some people, I'm one of them, will tell you that surplus masks are OK. They are reasonably safe if you know what to look for.

To determine if a protective mask is still usable you will have to inspect the mask.

Warning:
Make sure you can return the mask. If not, don't buy the mask. If you can't return the mask for a complete refund, don't buy the mask.

This is the first sign that a surplus protective mask is unserviceable (not usable).

First, look the mask over. Is everything there? Is it dirty? Smell like mold, mildew? If it does, send the mask back to the company where you bought it.

How old is it? 20, 30, 40, 50 years old, send it back.

Is it a Russian/soviet model? Send it back!

Next gently pull on the tabs that holds the head harness. The head harness is the thing that goes behind your head. It holds the mask to your face. If you see any cracks, rips or tears, send the mask back.

Check the buckles, if the mask has them, for bent, broken, and/or proper function (should not slip when holding the head harness straps) If not, send the mask back.

Next check the face piece. This is the mask itself. Any holes, cuts, rips, tears, splits, soft or sticky spots, send the mask back.

Next check the outlet valve disk. This disk closes when you breath in and opens when you breath out. You will usually find it around the mouth area on the outside of the mask. Make sure the outlet valve is present then gently take your finger and make sure the valve spins/does not stick. The outlet valve should also be flat, not curled or distorted. Some outlet valves are shaped like a cup, so be careful looking at the shape of the valve. If the outlet valve is curled, distorted, cut, and/or missing, send the protective mask back.

Next check the inlet valve. The inlet valve is usually near the nose. Make sure the outlet valve is flat, not curled, distorted, cut and/or missing. If the inlet valve is curled, distorted, cut, and/or missing. Send the mask back.

Next check the lens. The lens allow you to see when you are wearing the mask. Any scratches, broken lens, discoloration and/or missing lens, send the mask back.

The last item I will tell you to check is the head harness. Some head harnesses have nets, and some have pads with 6 to 8 straps coming off the pad. These straps attach to the tabs on the face piece. Insure the head harness has an even number of straps, free of cuts, tears, missing straps, and/or loss of elasticity. If you can't get a replacement, send the mask back.

Check any of the equipment that came with the mask. Does it have a hood? The hood should be free of holes, tears, rips and/or falling apart. Does it have a carrying bag? The bag should be free of holes, rips, tears, frays, and any other damage. If you can't get replacements, send the mask back.

This is a basic inspection of a mask. If any mask new or surplus fails any of the above requirements, immediately return the mask to the company you bought the mask from. Don't use this as an excuse to return a mask that has been in your possession for a year or that you screwed up.

The next thing you want to do is check the filters. Masks with internal filters are difficult to check. Be careful! Removing the filters from a M17 series mask and a M10-M mask can destroy the face piece; additionally, the filter may have mold and mildew from being wet.

No matter what, you will need new filters.

Why? Filters, once opened, are only good for a few days or weeks. The M17 series and M10-M protective masks are over 20 years old; the filters are at least that old.

External filters will also need to be changed, before you use the surplus mask. To check an external filter, make sure the can is free of dents, cracks, rust, and is still sealed. Once a filter is opened; it is only good for few days or weeks. (I am trying to find a source for a better estimate)

As you can tell, by now, finding a serviceable surplus mask is almost impossible because they are almost impossible to find.

This includes the Israeli German-made protective masks.

Generally, the Israeli masks you see for sell are returns/surplus. The Israeli government supplies masks to its citizens in time of emergency. Once the emergency is over or the mask is returned; they are put into storage. Once the shelf-life is reached, the masks and filters are sold.

So, what is a person/family to do?

Buy brand-new protective masks. You will need to replace these masks every 15 to 20 years and possibly sooner, depending on the mask's shelf-life. Same with the filters, but filters last only about 10 years.

OK. You don't have lots of money. You could buy an escape hood. These hoods are basic, bare bones protective masks. They get you out of the area.

And that is the idea. As a civilian, if a terrorist chemical weapon attack happens, you protect yourself and get out of the area. Leave the clean up for the trained expert. This includes chemical spills.

And this brings up my next point. You don't need to buy a protective mask or a smoke hood. You just need to know the behavior of smoke and chemical agents. (Chemical agent is the military term for the small group of chemicals that militarise use to cause death)

Smoke will rise to the top of a room. If you crawl on your hands and knees or do a belly crawl, you can avoid breathing the smoke. If you are outside, you can move away from the smoke.

Chemical agents behave differently. They are heavier then air, so they will sink to the bottom of a room. If the attack is on the first floor, move to the top floor. The higher the better. If you are in a warehouse, climb the ladder towards the roof or get on a scissor lift and raise the lift to its highest position.

Don't go into the basement, subway, or other below ground area during a chemical attack because the chemical agents will settle to the lowest area.

Recently, in the last 20 years, a group of school children were visiting a World War One battleground, I think in Belgium or France. Some of the school children entered a foxhole/below-ground bunker; they died or were injured from chemical weapon residue, from WW 1.

Some chemical agents have a certain smell. I heard a joke one time. "If you smell new mown hay, you're going to die anyway."

This is true and false. Chemicals must be at a certain concentration to harm you, but you will also have to use your other senses to detect a chemical attack/spill.

Rand has a report called "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks." This report has some suggestions on surviving a terrorist's chemical weapon attack.

If you're outside and start seeing people start falling over for no reason, Run!

But where do you run to? The Rand corporation suggests moving to the closest building, close off the outside air by closing all window and doors and turning off the heating and cooling system and if possible move to a higher floor in the building, find an inside room or office and seal the room. You can use rags, rugs, paper towels, toilet paper, even your clothes (Better to be naked then dead. Save your shoes. You will probably need to walk to get help after the attack)

Remember what I wrote in Week Two-Shelter. Use plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal the room if you have it.

If you hear a load "Pop" and see smoke or vapors, Run! If you are outside follow the recommendations above.

If you are inside, Chapter 3-"An Individual's Strategy" on page 25 suggests some actions on your part. Make sure you read the report.

Guess what; there is a problem. The expensive mask you bought or didn't buy might not protect you from an industrial chemical spill, because filters are design for certain chemicals.

Guess what, again. The chemical spill may be so concentrated the mask and filter are overwhelmed by the chemicals. If you live near a gas pipeline, railroad tracks, a rail yard, interstate highway, chemical plant, or other industrial area, you might need to buy a self-contained breathing apparatus for everyone in the family.

The protective mask will also protect you from biological weapons or the flu, but a $200 mask is slightly expensive for protection from the flu virus. There are inexpensive masks such as the N95 mask by 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing).

The recommendation is to use a new N95 mask everyday, so everyone who leaves the house needs a mask. Do the math and buy them now, if you are preparing for a flu pandemic, because once a flu emergency starts there will be no masks at any price.

There are some homemade or other methods of providing air for you and your family. These methods lack certain criteria needed to totally protect you from a chemical spill/attack.

One is called extra air. It is used by scuba divers in emergencies if their air tanks run out. This lacks a hood/protection for the eyes. These tanks also have a limited air supply, usually counted in minutes.

Another method is a dust mask described in "Nuclear War Survival Skill." The dust mask is a soviet design to protect a person from breathing radioactive fallout after a nuclear strike. They offer no protection from chemical agents or industrial chemicals; however, the dust mask may protect you from dust from an explosion or building collapse.

I call them respirators. They are protective masks that only cover the mouth and nose. They have no eye protection. Wearing goggles or other eye protection will still leave your eyes exposed to chemical agents or industrial chemicals.

Lastly, I provided links to companies selling protective masks. I have never used these companies. I provided links to them for the pictures or the information on their sites. So read the links and I'll ...

See you next week!

Links:

Fire Safety for Kids:
http://www.firesafety.gov/kids/flash.shtm

Consumer Product Safety Commission:Smoke Alarms
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/smokealarms.pdfSmoke

Alarms: Why, Where and Which
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/559.pdf

Jesse Hunting - Gas Mask Page:
http://www.jesseshunting.com/gas-masks.html

Approved Gas Mask:Masks
http://www.approvedgasmasks.com/mask-gas.htm

Filters
http://www.approvedgasmasks.com/gas-filters.htm

Defective Masks
http://www.approvedgasmasks.com/defective-masks.htm

Buying Guide
http://www.approvedgasmasks.com/buying-guide.htm

Review of Evac-U8 and training unit
http://www.thetravelinsider.info/travelaccessories/evacu8smokehood.htm

Rand's "Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks"
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1731/

Chapter 3- An Individual's Strategy
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1731/MR1731.ch3.pdfh3.pdf

Respirators for Public Health Emergencies:
http://www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/respirators061107.html

Extra Air Source
http://www.scubasuppliers.com/site/1408308/product/EAS6-KY