So you have your survival first aid kit or you built your own kit. Then you went and prepped food and water purification. Then you focused on self-defense with guns, knives, or pepper spray.
Consider one thing that is typically overlooked by survival gurus or preppers: the gas mask.
So you probably don’t know a large amount about gas masks. Why would you? They are not exactly common talking points except for certain fields of soldiers.
But this article will help you out. I’ll get you through some important details about them and give you a few of my recommendations.
The Basic Facts on Gas Masks
Let’s start with the basics.
You want an NBC gas mask, at a minimum. NCB stands for:
- Nuclear: protection from radioactive fallout.
- Biological: viruses, bacteria, fungi, pandemics, etc.
- Chemical: Deadly chemicals such as tear gas, sarin gas, and nerve agents.
You can upgrade past an NBC and get a CBRN mask, which includes:
- Radiological: protection from byproducts/waste. A step above “nuclear” but with all the nuclear protections.
But it’s not really required. A NBC mask typically is “good enough” in the general sense of prepping purposes.
You want a NATO-approved gas mask.
- NATO approved gas masks all have the same 40mm thread for replacements. If you want to have cheap and easy replacements, you need it NATO approved. Otherwise, it will be horrific to find replacement filters. You don’t want to be dealing with this in a survival situation that would require a gas mask.
You do not want a respirator.
If you see a “gas mask” marked as N95 or N100, then it’s not a gas mask. These are respirators that are used by healthcare workers mainly. They do not protect your entire face, nor will they cover the NBC’s.
N95 means that it has been tested to remove 95% of airborne particles in the air. They will not help in the case of pandemics or other significant events. These are typically rated by NIOSH, so if you see “NIOSH approved” it is also just a respirator.
10 Important Facts About Gas Masks
Remember these ten things:
- Facial hair is a big issue with gas masks. They rarely work correctly with beards. You need a proper fit to make them work.
- Running out of filters is a big problem.
- You cannot wear a gas mask indefinitely. Most people become uncomfortable after 3 hours. It is a tool to escape, not to wear constantly.
- You need to practice wearing it before using it. It is an art, as you will learn very soon.
- Not all gas masks are created equal. Surplus masks and the “fake” (respirators) will not help you.
- You can only survive three minutes without air, so learn to get the thing on fast.
- CBRN are military-version gas masks. They are significantly better than NBC in many ways (more protection, reduced weight, easier to breathe in, etc).
- You need child-specific gas masks if you’re getting one for your kid(s).
- Some chemicals affect both internal organs and the skin. You’ll need a suit to protect the skin.
- Fogging is a common issue with gas masks. Many gas masks have equipment installed in them specifically to avoid this.
A Quick FAQ on Gas Masks
When do you use a gas mask?
- In the event of an “NBC”: Nuclear, biological, or chemical attack.
Will a gas mask fully cover me?
- No, you may also consider getting a hazmat suit. Although this would not generally be an issue, except for the military.
How long can I wear the gas mask?
- It is user-dependent, but most people get irritated after about 3 hours. They can become very hot overtime, and cause exhaustion due to the difficulty breathing in the air (unless it is a CBRN mask).
Can I eat/drink in them?
- There is gear to allow you to drink in them that is bought separately. However, you cannot eat in them.
I thought the CDC doesn’t recommend gas masks?
- They do not recommend respirators.
Can I use these to aid in decontamination?
- Absolutely. And you should.
Are there child-specific requirements?
- Yes, they need their own independent gas masks that are specifically for children due to fitting issues.
How do I setup the gas mask?
- Remove the plastic filter cover to ensure you can breathe and install the filters. Put on the gas mask and ensure a snug fit based on the model. Activate any additional equipment that is attached to it, such as anti-fogging breathers. Then you’re all set.
Can they protect me against an epidemic?
- Yes, and they were sold out during the Ebola outbreak for that exact reason. You can’t wear them all the time, but wearing them around people will prevent the spread of diseases. Unless you have open wounds and you’re hugging everyone, obviously.
What about NIOSH gas masks?
- They are not gas masks; they are respirators. Regardless of if they say they are gas masks.
What’s the best way to use these for prepping?
- Get a NATO approved NBC gas mask with the 40 mm filters. Learn how to use it, and practice putting it on. Practice putting it on loved ones as well if you need more than one. Store them appropriately (nowhere damp or prone to damage). Keep them handy in the case of needing to use them.
Some Pictures For Reference
The first two are NBCs, the second two are CBRNs.
Any further questions, feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll try to get back with you.