Archive for September, 2012

It is said that a person will not survive more than:

Three minutes without air,

Three days without water, and

Three weeks without food

As we continue to honor National Preparedness month, let’s look at how we can prepare for the possibility that we will not have sufficient air to breathe as a result of a natural or man-made disaster.

The most obvious urban survival technique is to invest in a good respirator, hood or “gas mask.”  There are many commercially available ones out there but because you are all good urban survival consumers as a result of reading my blog, I will not go into detail about them.  I would rather discuss what to do if you are caught without one.

Okay, you are in your  home or apartment and the emergency response system comes on notifying you that as a result of an explosion nearby, the air around you is toxic.  For this scenario, you have determined it was not safe or it was too late to get out of the area without a respirator.  First, get to the room furthest from the exterior, seal off as much of the area as possible, then consider constructing a homemade mask so that you can make your escape.

If you do, please know that your homemade gas mask is of course, only a temporary solution that will not be as effective as commercially made gas masks. However, they are better than using a simple towel pressed against your face. Homemade masks will, most likely, only protect against the most common gases used in chemical warfare. Against smoke, some other gases and carbon monoxide, they will be ineffective. Moreover, homemade masks will only be as effective as they are airtight. Your homemade mask must fit securely around the head so that air is unable to slip inside (except through the breathing canister) or else chemical agents can also get through.

So here are two possible homemade gas masks you can try.

1. The bed sheet method:

Cross-stitch together two 12-inch squares of bed sheets or similar fabric. Put a layer of baking soda between the two sheets before sewing them together. When you need the mask, simply dampen it and hold it firmly over your face while exiting the area contaminated by gases. This provides temporary protection and is not intended for any lengthy use.

2. The swimming cap type:

I think this type is a modern variation of the 1942 gas mask made by the American Women’s Voluntary Service

American women’s voluntary service-1942

Use a swimming cap, oriented backwards and upside down, for the face covering. You’ll cut holes in the cap for both an eyepiece and for the breathing canister apparatus. Secure these pieces with tape. For the eyepiece, use a see-through, celluloid box, the sort used in women’s facial powder boxes. For a snug fit, the cut hole should be slightly smaller than the box. For the breathing canister use a can with both the top and bottom cut out. Over both ends of the open can you’ll fit wire screen mesh. Old fashioned, wire-screen flyswatters will work, but you can also use screen door material. Inside the canister you’ll need the actual gas mask filter. For this, use handkerchiefs stuffed with charcoal (you can get at pet supply store or make your own by burning coconut husks) and soda lime (old fashioned mom and pop drug store). With elastic, create straps across the back of the mask to hold it onto your head.

Although the masks are to be used for a very short period of time, it will give you enough time to escape to a better place. You may even want to try making one now.  Having said that, I still recommend you go buy one.  I hear Canada has a bunch that they can’t sell….. really!

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