Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Little False Hope - Or Maybe A Life Saver - The Gas Mask

Several years back, I obtained a gas mask. It came with 3 filters. The filters have long since expired and so too has the gas mask, though I would think the mask probably good for years to come since it was never used and stored under moderate conditions. With it came a complete chemical resistant suit, the thing about the suit was that it did not fit me, it was way too small. Don't ask - that is just the way it was and I will not give details.

I have often wondered if the gas mask, without the suit (or even with it) was something that could save my life in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack (or in the even of an industrial catastrophe). I have also wondered if having one was just so much false hope. Then I would think to myself, 'Well the Israelis give them out not only to their armed forces personnel and to their government workers and also to the general public. If they do that, there must be something to them and anyway - folks wear them all the time in dangerous industrial situations'. The thought about not having them if needed also crossed my mind, pretty often, ever since 9/11 and it was accompanied by another thought. That other thought was of all the people who would survive whatever it was that those without gas masks would not survive. I was dead serious about all those thoughts at one time or another, also just amused by them at times. They came sort of intermittently depending on what was going on in the world and most were also intermittently forgotten then resurrected again only to be forgotten again seemingly ad infinitum.

I always sort of fantasized figured I would get myself and each person in my immediate family a gas mask. I just never did it. Yet, the thought of having a need for them kept popping up now and again. I have sort of a survival mentality, I would rather win the gunfight than lose it sort of a thing, even if I get shot, so I can get to see another day. I guess that is why the idea of buying some gas masks has persisted ever since 9/11. of course, I don't know if I want to still really be alive in a post apocalyptic world the likes of that seen in Road Warrior or Book of Eli, but I don't want to suffer the alternative either - as in getting killed off because I was not prepared to survive. It does not have to be something apocalyptic either, I would not want to suffer the consequences of something much more commonplace than the end of the world as we know it - such as an industrial explosion at a chemical plant or a nuclear reactor spewing forth radioactive material into the atmosphere or maybe just a run of the mill local area terrorist attack.

There was another reason though that I did not run right out and buy 4 gas masks. Gas masks are expensive, for good ones of current or even recent manufacture, the filters that go with them are also expensive. Yes my family is worth the expense but to tell you the truth I would need the money at hand to be able to buy them and not take other things away from the wife and kids. Of course I tend to be a procrastinator when it comes to buying stuff like that, especially more expensive stuff. Not that I won't spend the money, just that I hem and haw and check this and that and it takes me forever. I do buy what I have decided upon but only after I have definitely decided upon something and once I have saved up the money (it took me a couple to a few years to decide on my first computer and then spent between a couple to a few thousand on it). Back to gas masks. Recently, I saw an advertisement for some clearance items, one of which was a very well made gas mask without filters at $20 apiece! Thing is they were sold out when I checked at the store - it is a local store - I had waited too long and checked this and that too much and lost an opportunity. Well, I was about to leave the store when the clerk asked me if I wanted to buy another brand, also well made by a reputable company or so they said. I declined though at the time since knew little about the particular model (there I went procrastinating again and I was already there with money in hand ready to buy the brand that had sold out). I went home, did some checking, then got realized I had better act fast or lose another great deal. Sometimes I can overcome the procrastination bug. So I got right onto the store's website and ordered 4 of them. I also ordered another manufacturer's mask in size small since the 4 of the other brand I ordered were only available in large. My daughter probably will need to use the smaller sized one. The 4 large sized ones were just under $25 apiece and the small one was $20. I made the order.

I guess they arrived yesterday, I found them in my vestibule today. It is a rare day when someone in my house tells me a package has arrived for me! What a surprise when, I found out that the 4 I had ordered, North model 54401, also came with CBN (chemical, biological and nuclear) filters. I found that out when I opened the box tonight but I had been thinking I would need to order filters somewhere else. That was a big money saver right there. Normally those filters go for about $40 each. I checked them to see if they had expired, it would be my luck and I was again happily surprised. The filters are marked with what I believe to be an expiration date of 06/2015 ; I plan to confirm that with the manufacturer. If that is correct, they are good for over 4 years! Such a deal, I should buy more of them.

I was also a bit surprised, this time not so happily, to see the order had gotten somewhat screwed up. They sent me 4 North gas masks alright, but only 3 large, the other was a small. I would never have ordered the other brand, a small Forsheda, had I known they had an available North mask in small; their site only showed them in large when I ordered. Had I known, I would have gotten 4 large and 1 small - all North. I am hopeful they will make an exchange, the small Forsheda for a large North (I will pay the difference). Although they did say all sales are final on clearance items - they screwed up the order so I am hopeful an exchange will be amenable to them. If they want my continued business they will do the right thing and I am a decent if not good customer of theirs. Anyway, if they will not make an exchange it will be no great loss for me and I will try to sell the Forsheda. All I needed was 4 masks anyhow, I bought 5 because I wanted an extra North size large but can do without the extra one if they ran out. If they did not run out, I may buy a few more.

Next, I'll have to work on chemical resistant suits, gloves and boots. With the way things are going in Egypt, with China building up its military and getting testy with us, with North Korea attacking the South over and over again, with Iran being oh so much closer to nukes than we had thought, with the frequency of industrial accidents, with the way the Mexican cartels are going berserk, with the unchecked frequency at which terrorism just keeps rearing its ugly head, I figure that maybe a gas mask just might come in handy someday and if not, then so what.

Now, if any of this survivalist thinking sounds crazy or paranoid to you then stop to think for a moment about the motto of the Boy Scouts of America - "Be Prepared". Then give some few minutes thought to the Bhopal Disaster in India, to the Chernobyl meltdown in Russia, or to Three Mile Island here in the USA or just read the papers everyday about terrorism everywhere. Then think solemnly about those people who died or who were terribly injured but who may have fared better had they been better prepared while living in the shadow of the dragon. I have no fantasies of being a dragon slayer, just some hope of maybe surviving the dragon's rampage to see another sunrise and to see its rays shining down on my wife and kids standing beside me, them with hope in their eyes that we will make it to yet another day. Of course, I don't really know if making it, through whatever might happen, will be worth it but the only way to find out is by being alive to find out first hand.

All the best,
Glenn B


James A. Zachary Jr. said...

I long had a mask as part of my PPE for work. Passing the "fit test" is a problem for men with facial hair. I'm in the market to buy one or more for my personal use; I too have yet to find one that I like.

Glenn B said...

I have gotten a good fit with an MSA mask despite the beard. I don't know about these North masks yet but will check on that soon. maybe I should carry an electric razor too - lol!

Johnny Storme said...

Love your Blog! I’ll be checkin out your archives! I specialize in “Best Of” posts, and your blog will be added to one of my posts. Gas masks last quite a while, it's the filters that stop working. Stored in an airtight container will more than double their life span!

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