Killing Fumes, Why A Smoke Mask is Essential Piece of Gear
It’s not always the holy S#!t moment in life we should worry about. As we live out our daily lives, it’s certainly acceptable to consider a vacation now and then… of course this is between your training schedule and busy life. The National Fire Protection Association reports that “most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation (80% of the deaths are from smoke and toxic fumes). Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. Therefore, this is way I always have a smoke mask with me, in my travels and at home. By the time, you notice something is amiss with smoke in your home or hotel room, it may be too late as the thick, deadly fumes make you go night-night for that long sleep. If you have ever been in a heavy smoke environment you know just how bad this is and even having quick access to an exit is no guarantee you will make it. Just think how bad it feels when you get campfire smoke in your face and eyes. In that situation, you can easily hold your breath and move away. However, the first deep breath of smoke and toxins into your lungs will quickly incapacitate you and stops any chance for an escape plan. Also consider your family members who may be scattered throughout your home in different rooms or in a different hotel room, or even on an entirely different floor. Did you know you could protect yourself and your loved ones with the simple purchase of a good quality smoke mask? It is kind of a no brainer, that with a relative inexpensive and simple to use device you can turn the odds around in your favor.
As it relates to smoke inhalant, the proper gear is how lives are saved. Firemen have all the fire and flame protection equipment and positive pressure air tanks that provide them with clean air. They also spend much of their career training, as they are professionals and would not ever consider entering a smoke-filled building or home without the proper protection gear, so why would you put your or your family members at risk? Consider the following two scenarios, a familiar location and an unfamiliar location. Your home or work place offers an easy location to practice an exit strategy but when you check into a hotel you do not have the benefit of familiarity. For a moment, imagine a hotel from which you need to exit in heavy smoke. You, should at a minimum, identify stairwells and exits at both ends of the hallway. Also, if you’re traveling outside the United States you may want to, take the time to walk that exit route. I have checked exit routes all over the world and surprisingly, I have found many hotels with blocked exits or doors that don’t open from the stairwell. In fact, I even found one hotel in a foreign country with the ground level exit chained shut. So maybe carry bolt cutters with you as well… just kidding. But, if traveling abroad you should look to ensure the route you’re taking has a viable exit. Also consider your floor choice, as fire department’s ladder trucks usually only reach 7 to 10 floors, so the lower the floor room number the better chance you have for rescue. Also look out your window or over your balcony if you have one. Make sure your window opens if not have a plan to get through it (Read article on hotel room safety). I have stayed at some places where this is possible; however, many times there is no external exit route, so you’ll need to move internally. This may require you to move down multiple floors filled with smoke and fumes. You’re not going to make that on a breath hold and a damp towel certainly won’t work. Try breathing from a wet towel, you’ll basically water board yourself. (Note: You should also take a moment to figure out how many doors you are away from the exit, so in thick smoke you can feel your way to safety, also count seats on aircraft to exits located to the front and rear of your seat).
When you purchase a mask(s) you should purchase a training mask, if available. If the company does not sell a training mask, you may want to consider buying an extra mask to use as your training mask. Do not wait until the event to try it on for the first time, this is a BIG mistake and you may damage or fail to activate the mask, thus it will not filter any of the fumes. Also, a military style gas mask is not your answer. You want to consider a mask that is FAA approved and I would strongly suggest keeping your mask with you on a flight (there are FAA approved masks available permitted in the cabin). While you may survive, the airplane crash the chance of fire and heavy toxic fumes is guaranteed. So again, a mask within reach may give you the time to get out while others lose consciousness due to smoke and fumes. Most of these masks give you anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of breathing time. It will not be great breathing but enough to get you out, ultimately saving your life.
You’ll find many masks available, a quick Google search offers many choices, but chose wisely as there are numerous worthless masks on the market. Previously, I have relied on my favorite mask made by Dragger called the Dragger Parat C smoke mask (Dragger is the same company that builds closed circuit diving rigs for the Special Operations community). As it’s German made that’s usually a sign of quality, as the Germans are known to over-engineer everything. It’s simple to use; however, as I mentioned, it requires training before it’s needed in an emergency. There is a pull tab that activates the filter but Dragger does sell a training mask. When you join the American Society of Preppers you’ll find some other mask reviews, so that you can select the best mask in your price range. I have personally moved away from the Dragger due to a few reasons I discuss in the reviews. One of the major downsides of the Dragger mask is it will set you back about $205.00. The web site has links and some discounts to vendors once you join or you can set out on your own, as there are many others on the market (some good, many bad) so do your research or just join American Society of Preppers to read reviews for top masks. There are a few on there for under $40.00, so it’s well worth your time and money to join the site just to have someone else well trusted do the homework for you.
I have traveled extensively on vacation and for work and always bring a smoke mask for my family members, any client I’m with, and for me, of course. Stop taking the risk of being unprepared for smoke and fire and figure out the best plan for you to move forward. As mentioned, there are several masks on the market, most of them not worth the shipping cost, much less the price they want so if you go at it alone “buyer beware” … really. Usually, you get what you pay for and in the case of smoke masks this is so true, although you can still spend a lot for a less than desirable mask. Remember: stay alert, stay alive, be prepared, and expect the unexpected.