It’s a great question and it requires some knowledge and research to come up with a good answer for your particular situation.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to use fair amount of fear as a way to induce someone to buy a product. For me, a gas mask always comes to mind with this type of tactic. I am going to step out on a limb here and say that “most” people probably do not need a gas mask to prepare themselves for natural disasters or any other type of catastrophic event. Now, having said that, I’m not trying to dissuade you from buying a gas mask, if you think its important to you and your family, then by all means don’t let me stop you!
Before we begin, let me state for the record that I am not a subject matter expert on this, but I have been trained on chemical suits and gas masks from two different governmental agencies, which does provide me with some insight on the subject.
Here we go!
Things to consider before purchasing a gas mask:
First, a gas mask is a system, which implies that there are many parts. All these parts must be taken care of, cleaned, managed, and replaced at different intervals.
One sized does not fit all. You need to be physically fitted for a mask, everyone’s face and head is shaped differently, but they generally come in small, medium and large sizes.
What is the age of the mask? Would you put 20-year-old set of tires on your vehicle? No, then why would you be willing to put a 20-year-old rubber gas mask on your face? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Have you had any type of training? Can you acquire some training or is reading on the Internet enough?
Do you have any facial hair? If you do, a gas mask won’t work, sorry. You can’t obtain a proper seal. For those of you who have been snorkeling or scuba diving I’m sure you can relate. Facial hair might not be a problem with a Hood system though.
Maintenance on the mask is vital. Numerous filters have a 5 to 10 year shelf life; this implies “unopened” in the original packaging. We used to replaced our filters every 6 months like clock work, why? To be of any use the filter needs to be opened and removed from the manufactures packaging and placed on the mask, once its open the filter’s life cycle is reduced.
While you might think that the filters are the most critical element of any gas mask, you would be wrong. The most important part of any gas mask (if it has them) is the “O” rings. The “O” rings sit/attach in-between the mask and filter itself. If these rings are damaged, crimped, dry rotted, etc., the mask is worthless. When you breath in, air will be drawn in from the path of least resistance and if you have a damaged “O” ring, I promise, you will be sucking in unfiltered air.
Cost? What does the mask cost and then what are the reoccurring costs such as filters and “O” rings.
Early warning detection system, do you have one? I never did! For whatever reason the agency I worked for didn’t think it was important. The rule of thumb was and probably still is, if you see birds falling from the sky or animals and humans falling to the ground, it’s a good indicator of a chemical attack. Of course, my colleagues and I used to joke that if we happened to see this, its probably too late.
Some chemicals or agents require a full body suite for protection? I was issued a suit with my gas mask; it came with the body suit, gloves, and booties. Interestingly enough, it did not come with any type of tape to seal up the suit. I guess it never dawned on them that this might be important to get a good seal!
This article is quickly becoming long! We could go on and on with this subject and discuss the different types of chemicals, prevailing winds, topography, ambient temperatures, but I’m not. I’m done!