Buying A Gas Mask --
and Other
Considerations


Updated August 16, 2004

NOTE: THESE PAGES HAVE BEEN DRAMATICALLY UPDATED IN DARE TO PREPARE — 4th EDITION

Several years ago, the U.S. government published a list of the top 120 cities most at risk for terrorism. While this Domestic Preparedness web site is still active, it is now closed off to the public, accessible only by password. This list might help you decide how much preparedness you feel is necessary.

If terrorists really want to inflict the most harm, they would release bio-chem agents when people are at work or school. Most people will instinctively want to get home and they may expose themselves to more nasties in order to get there, dragging contaminants with them.

It's logical if you live in a high profile metropolitan city, there is higher risk, not just from the actual terrorist attack but from ensuing panic. If you're thinking to make "the great escape" after a biological attack, it's probable roads will be blocked by a massive exodus, and more likely, due to official road closures. Hard as it is to swallow, residents of any targeted town may not be allowed to travel lest contaminants go with them. A viable option is to batten down your home and rely on stored goods to see you through.

If you have the good fortune of notification prior to an attack - frankly this scenario is doubtful - go inside immediately. Seal windows, doors and vents with duct tape. Tape between the door and the frame and between the frame and the wall. The space between the door and the floor should be covered with a wet towel. Turn off air conditioning units, swamp coolers and forced air furnaces - anything that brings in outside air. Run them only if they are equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. For more detailed information. see Sheltering in Place.

Don't forget your pets. They will need the same inside protection you do. Even with these measures, it will not guarantee 100% safety if the "bug" is extremely small like an anthrax spore.

Conscientious folks living in metroplexes are taking extra precautions. They may choose to keep a gas mask at home in their night stand as well as in the desk drawer at work and in the trunk of their car. For those on a budget, one mask would suffice providing you are willing to take it with you - home-car-office and back again.

If you live in a rural community, odds are you won't be exposed to a bio-chem agents, but who can say for certain. Osama bin Laden and other terrorists want to steal the biggest number of lives for their effort and that won't be achieved targeting small towns.


WHAT MIGHT WE EXPECT?

The most likely scenario is the biological weapon though chemical and toxic agents can't be discounted. Chemical warfare is generally delivered by warheads unless their aim is for a much smaller group; e.g. the Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in a Japan subway March 20, 1995. They killed 12 and injured over 5,000 people.

Even though chemical products can be mass produced, they are normally delivered by artillery shells. When delivered by plane, much more of the agent is needed. Since it becomes diluted during dispersal, it loses some the toxicity. Chemicals can be blown away by the wind and they are highly susceptible to air temperature. Colder temps allow chemicals to linger three to four times longer than during Summer. For a variety of reasons, it makes less sense for a terrorist to use this weapon.

Conversely, most biological agents can be distributed more easily. Many are contagious spreading illness further and anthrax, for example, remains toxic for months or years and is resistant to destruction.

If you need to go outside for any reason and haven't had the luxury of a vaccine, other precautions should be taken. One of these measures should include a gas mask, but most of us haven't a clue what to look for or what to purchase.


SO WHAT DO I BUY? - ADULTS

Right now gas masks are harder to come by at a reasonable price. Once the initial panic buying subsides, not only should you be able to purchase gear at less expensively, chances are these products will have optimum shelf life. There are some things to consider so you don't get ripped off.

You should be able to purchase a top-of-the-line US mask for no more than $150 - $200. Very acceptable gas masks sell for $75.

The M-40 (right) is the top-of-the-line American mask. These can be purchased these for around $200. or just a little higher.

A very good alternative is the M-95 US mask which is normally available for $200. (Yes, they and most others have gone up!)

Due to extremely low breathing resistance, the M95 mask and filter are comfortable to wear even for long periods, without affecting user performance. Light in weight, the mask weighs around a pound.

The gas mask of choice at surplus stores has been the Israeli product. While this is a decent mask, nearly all of the filters are out-of-date. Price-wise one of the best purchases you can make is the Israeli civilian gas mask and upgrade the filter to the one that fits a US made M-95 mask. This top-of-the-line filter costs around $30-$40 and is the standard NATO screw-on type which fits the Israeli mask as well as many others.

Pictured left is the Israeli M-15 military gas mask.


Prior to 9-11, the Israeli civilian mask could be had for about $20 and the filter (though old) for $7. Now you should be able to purchase this mask for $60. which is still a substantial savings over other makers. The Israeli military mask is a newer version, and usually runs around $100. but may be as high as $225, including filter.

Regardless of which one you purchase, make sure your mask is NATO or NIOSH rated. Gas canister and filters should be NBC, which give protection against chemical, biological and nuclear agents. That a filter is NBC rated is a major selling point for retailers and if it meets these standards, it will surely be posted. If you're buying online and unsure, email and ask first. Forget buying ones that aren't NBC rated.

Before buying any mask, ask these three questions first:

1. When was this mask factory tested?
2. When was this filter manufactured and what is its expiration date?
3. What will this filter protect against?


NON-AMERICAN MASKS

The British S-10 mask is also a very good choice. It has a special adapter cap which allows for drinking from a bottle without removing the mask.

Canada makes a terrific mask, the C-4. They are reasonably priced and reputed to be very comfortable but are more difficult to locate. You may need to contact a Canadian supplier to find this item.

Another choice is a Euro mask, the BSK. These masks should cost about $130 plus another $25 for the NATO screw-on filter.


CHILDREN AND INFANTS MASKS

Youth masks are even more scarce than adult sizes and not all companies manufacturer children's sizes. Israeli and American masks do come in youth sizes. Plan to spend $ .

Babies can't use gas masks since it requires too much inhalation pressure. For them there is a special type hood that goes over the infant and snugs to their waist. It keep their head and chest cover while still allowing diapers to be changed. Generally these hoods are battery powered and have a pouch, tube and nipple inside for feeding. On the Net, you'll find wide price gaps from $400 - $800.


One thing to consider is that some retailers will try to sell you only their top-of-the-line product - ones suitable for military use. Keep in mind that troops would be exposed to much higher concentrations of chemical or biological agents and need only the strongest line of defense. This would be highly unlikely for the population at large.


MASKS and FILTERS TO AVOID

AVOID inferior products like the Russian M-10, M-41, Russian SMS, M9 or M9A1 and GP-5 masks and the East German masks. Other products to steer clear of are the French/Belgian ANP M51 and Hungarian civilian respirator.

These filters should also be avoided: West German models, American M-9 and American C2 models with more than 10 years ago.

Masks that were being sold literally 20 - 30 years ago and recycled products should be avoided.

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