Prior to the global pandemic, many people were unfamiliar with the acronym PPE. They quickly learned it once the virus began to spread to all corners of the world. This led many to believe PPE is only for healthcare workers and first responders.
However, PPE or personal protective equipment may be of benefit to any person in certain situations. In fact, every person should consider investing in tactical defense gear and personal protective equipment. Doing so helps ensure they are prepared for any situation that arises. What types of tactical defense gear and personal protective equipment might a person want to have on hand? For most people, a respirator sits at the top of the list.
Respirators protect individuals against biological and chemical substances, along with other possible terrorist threats. When used properly, the device selectively reduces a person’s exposure to these threats. However, a person must know which device to purchase, how to ensure it fits, the limitations of the devices, and things they need to consider.
Shelter in Place
In many situations, sheltering in place serves as the best option, even when a respirator is available. Avoid going out if large amounts of debris are present in the atmosphere. The same holds if authorities warn against going outside. A person can visit the United States Department of Homeland Security for information on what steps to take when sheltering in place serves as the best option.
Respiratory protection isn’t beneficial if the wrong device is used. In addition, this device must remain easily accessible or it won’t be of help. Learn when and how to use the respirator. Practice putting the device on and taking it off, so there is no hesitation in an emergency. Furthermore, know how to store and maintain the respirator properly, so it offers the highest level of protection.
Types of Respirators
Respirators come in several types. For example, certain types aren’t appropriate for men who have facial hair. They won’t provide the correct fit, so the individual wearing the mask will be exposed to harmful substances. What are the basic types of respirators offered today?
Escape respirators function exactly as the name suggests. They allow people to move from a contaminated area to a safe one in an emergency. Many of these devices come as a hood with a neck seal. These respirators are only used once, typically for a maximum of one hour. Manufacturers offer these respirators in a range of sizes, but some people find they need to consider other styles, including those with very small or large necks.
Particulate respirators are inexpensive and easy to use, but they provide the lowest level of protection. As the name suggests, they protect against particulates, but that is all. A person should only use this type of respirator in low-hazard situations where this is no risk of gases, chemicals, or vapors. The N-95 masks that were in high demand throughout the global pandemic are one type of particulate respirator. People refer to them as air-purifying respirators because they remove particles from the air a person breathes.
Gas Mask Respirators
Many people refer to any respirator as a gas mask, but there are differences. Gas masks or air-purifying respirators filter or clean chemical gases from the air. They may also remove particles. The respirator comes with a mask or facepiece and a chemical cartridge or filter. Cartridges or filters contained within metal shells are referred to as canisters, but they fulfill the same purpose.
The user secures the mask or facepiece to their head with the help of straps. Cartridges come in many styles. A person may choose from a filter that removes particles such as biological weapons, charcoal filters capable of removing some chemicals, or a filter that clears both. When the person inhales while wearing the mask, the air they breathe moves through the filter before going into their body.
A gas mask only works when the right filter or cartridge is selected for the substances in the air. Finding the right filter can be challenging. Sadly, manufacturers have yet to create a cartridge or filter that protects against all threats.
Certain people choose to invest in a powered air-purifying respirator. These devices make it easy to breathe because a fan blows the air through the filter. However, they only work when they have a fully charged battery, and they use the same filters as standard air-purifying respirators, so the user must know which contaminants are in the area.
Firefighters use self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA). These respirators come with an air tank to provide clean air, so no filters are required. This offers a higher level of protection against certain chemicals, but the tanks weigh 30 pounds or more. The average person cannot use self-contained breathing apparatuses. Special training is needed to know how to operate and maintain them. In addition, the air tanks typically only last one hour. The rating and the user’s rate of breathing impact the length of the air supply.
Uses for Respirators
People often think respirators are only used when a person is on the job. They are helpful in many other situations, however. A person might don a respirator if they live in an area prone to wildfires or one that is known for high levels of air pollution. People with compromised immune systems may use respirators to protect themselves against bacteria and viruses, or a person might rely on a respirator if they are exposed to indoor mold growth following a flood. Countless people have also invested in these devices to keep in an emergency kit in case of a terrorist attack or other catastrophe.
Choosing a Respirator
Most people turn to N-95 respirators during a public health emergency. They are economical and easily found in stores. Furthermore, they protect a person against a range of respiratory hazards, including wildfire smoke and flu viruses. Most people who have an emergency kit have several of these devices in the kit. To protect against gases, like carbon monoxide, a person will need a respirator with a filter or cartridge.
Using the Respirator Properly
A respirator cannot do its job if it doesn’t fit properly. The respirator must fit snugly on the face, covering the nose and chin. This seal ensures no hazards can make their way under the mask and do harm to the wearer.
The best way to determine which respirator is best would be to try several on. This user seal check ensures the respirator will provide a good seal, and the wearer should repeat the process every time they use the device. Review the manufacturer’s instructions for the device to learn how to put it on, wear it, and remove it. The manufacturer’s instructions also provide information about how to store the device and share information on any limitations on its use.
Putting the Respirator On
Always inspect a respirator before putting it on. If it appears damaged in any way, do not use it. Furthermore, pay attention to how the respirator fits over facial hair, glasses, jewelry, or anything else that sits close to the neck or face. The respirator must sit snugly on the face to do its job.
Hold the respirator in the hands with the nose pieces resting on the fingertips. To determine which part is the top of the device, look for a thin metal or plastic bar. Allow the headbands to hand down while cupping the respirator in the hands.
Place the respirator just under the chin and move the top strap up, placing it over the head until it rests at the back close to the crown. Position the bottom strap so it sits below the ears encircling the neck. Never cross the straps over one another. Mold the nose pieces to the face by sliding the thin strap down.
Test the Seal
Exhale while wearing the mask, cutting off any paths where air might exit the mask. If the device is sealed properly, the facepiece should slightly pressurize. This increased pressure will lead to outward leakage.
Another option is to inhale swiftly, blocking off any path for air to come into the mask. A properly sealed mask will collapse slightly. This is due to the negative pressure created when the person inhales.
After completing this test, avoid touching the mask. Doing so could lead to contamination of the hands. Harmful particles collect on the outside of the mask and may be transferred to the hands when the mask is touched.
Removing a Respirator
Never touch the front of the respirator when removing it. Pull the bottom strap over the head and then the top strap. Dispose of the mask properly and immediately wash your hands to remove any particles picked up while removing the device.
People often fail to wear respirators properly, yet assume they are protected from harm. Ensure the device fits properly and do a seal test. Men and women who do so can protect themselves from a wide range of hazards and better withstand conditions seen following an emergency. This is one area where a person can never be too careful.