Crawl Before You Walk
Notice that we haven’t discussed anything about decon foams, response vehicles, satellite meteorological real-time receivers, robots, permanent installation line source detection arrays, or interactive response guides. While the aforementioned items could be valuable assets to agencies already possessing adequate safety and response equipment, they are luxuries that few can afford. Honestly, as a nation, we need to crawl before we walk.
Before you spend 10 grand of grant money on a chemical agent monitor system that may never be used operationally in your jurisdiction, consider spending it on communications infrastructure so that when something does occur, responders won’t have to carry three portable radios each. Don’t laugh; it’s happened.
A WMD incident will quickly sap your resources, but preparing for one doesn’t have to. Simple management practice, networking among affected parties, minimal investment in basic safety gear, expeditious use of grants, and adequate training will yield a cohesive, effective solution for your agency.
How Does a Gas Mask Work?
The KX Defense MF-10 is a lightweight, state-of-the-art respirator that meets NATO standards for combat NBC masks and filters.
While initially appearing to be a simple garment, a respirator, more commonly known as a "gas mask," is in fact a complex piece of personal protective equipment.
Respirators consist of three basic assemblies, a filter assembly, a valve assembly, and a faceblank assembly. When the wearer inhales, the air from outside the mask flows through the filter, through the valve assembly, over the inside of the eyepiece (to prevent fogging) ; and into his or her body. Exhaled breath exits the mask through an exhalation valve.
While often overlooked, the faceblank is a critical part of the respirator. No faceblank on the market today can withstand all agents and industrial chemicals known; however, the better ones use Hycar plastic. This material not only offers more resistance to permeation, but also better withstands the microscopic tears and holes at the seams and faceblank that are common to lesser respirators.
Filters are another major concern. All NBC-rated filters consist of a mix of active and passive media. Most filters begin with a large screen to trap large particles, then a layer of activated charcoal, followed by another layer of activated material (usually proprietary to the manufacturer). The layers of activated material neutralize many chemical agents, but after so long, these materials, if used, will be clogged with agent, or will begin to deteriorate in storage.
That's why it is very important to monitor the expiration dates on your filters. And remember, if the filters have been opened, their lifespan decreases exponentially.
Filter positioning is also important. Before you buy a mask, look carefully at the position of the filter(s). Does it hinder shouldering a long arm? Is it at the end of a long hose that could be grabbed by a rioter? These are critical concerns for police gas masks.
Another element of a gas mask that can affect its utility in the field is the valving assembly. Valves are the only moving parts in a gas mask, and therefore they are subject to the most wear. Because the valves usually are plastic, they are subject to becoming gummy, and sticky, rendering the respirator inoperable.
When purchasing a respirator, look at your valve assembly. Is it simple to maintain? Also, is the voicemitter in a good place for communications? The MSA Advantage 1000/Millenium series can be ordered with two voicemitters, one for normal speech, and one in the right cheek for use with telephones and radio systems.
A Disaster by Any Other Name
A basic set of WMD response gear for a police officer should include a respirator, gloves, overboots, and level B suit with duct tape for seals.
A Weapon of Mass Destruction Incident (WMD) can be defined several ways, depending on whose manual you are perusing. For instance, you might hear a WMD event referred to as an NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical), CBR (Chemical, Biological and Radiological), CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive), or BNICE (Biological, Nuclear, Incendiary, Chemical, and Explosive) incident.
Regardless of the divergent terminology, what all these terms refer to is an attack designed to cause panic or injury via the threat or utilization of a device (or devices) that releases a chemical agent, biological agent, radiological contamination, nuclear yield, or overpressure (blast) and fragmentation, sometimes in combination.
For more information:
Lanx Fabric Systems
Shawn Hughes is a 12-year veteran of law enforcement currently serving with the Union County (Tenn.) Sheriff’s Office. He is an expert in Public Safety Bomb Disposal and was a Recognized Hazardous Materials Technician and WMD expert long before 9/11.