Every person needs the right respirator in an emergency. If the respirator cannot filter the hazards that are present, a person may as well not even wear it. The process of selecting the right respirator begins with an exposure assessment. While a person cannot definitively say what hazards might be present in an emergency, they can evaluate potential risks and determine which are of most concern.
With this information, selecting the right personal protective equipment becomes easier. Once this respirator has been selected, the focus can turn to choosing a hazmat suit, a Geiger counter, and more. A person can never be too prepared when disaster strikes.
The Exposure Assessment
People are exposed to environmental agents every day. They encounter these agents in the water they drink and shower in, the air they breathe, and the consumer products they use. The goal of an exposure assessment is to determine the nature and magnitude of a person’s exposure to a respiratory hazard and select equipment designed to protect against the anticipated hazard.
Employers frequently carry out these assessments to protect their workers from respiratory hazards, but these threats may be found in other places. For example, a person might encounter respiratory hazards following a natural disaster or terrorist attack. If they have personal protective equipment on hand, they can protect themselves from these hazards.
A person should complete this exposure assessment regularly, such as when they restock their go-bag, learn of a new potential threat, or handle other survival matters. Times are changing, and new threats emerge regularly. Being prepared is key to weathering these situations with minimal harm.
Identifying potential airborne contaminants is key to choosing the right respirator. The person must know if the airborne is a particulate, such as a mist or aerosol. It might be a gas or vapor. The choice of respirator depends on the threat. Chemicals serve as another type of airborne contaminant, or the contaminant might be biological in nature. While a person cannot say for sure which hazards they may be exposed to, they can make the best guess based on information they have gathered regarding potential threats.
Factors that Play a Role in Which Respirator Should Be Selected
Other factors also play a role in which respirator a person should select. For example, a self-contained breathing apparatus often won’t work in a tightly constrained area. If the person using the device must evacuate to an area with limited space, other choices should be considered. Airline respirators aren’t designed to be used in areas where the hoses may catch on objects. Keep this in mind when comparing the options and know where the respirator will probably be used to avoid potential problems that make the device unusable.
Take into account the medical condition of the person who will be wearing the device. Respirators place a physical burden on the person wearing them. If the individual has a medical condition, for example, that would prohibit restrictive breathing conditions, a negative pressure respirator is not the right choice for them. Other options must be considered for them to get the most benefit from having a respirator in an emergency.
Furthermore, the respirator must be comfortable for the wearer to use it. Most people find a powered air-purifying helmet is their preference if an air-purifying respirator is needed to protect against hazards. This device is comfortable against the skin and makes it easy to breathe. Temperature and humidity levels inside the mask are acceptable.
On the other hand, some people prefer filtering facepieces. They are light and very easy to use. Every device has benefits and drawbacks that should be considered when making this selection.
When evaluating the assigned protection factor or APF of a device, keep in mind this figure only applies if the device is properly fitted and the wearer is trained in its use. Furthermore, the respirator must function properly to provide this level of protection. If the device has an APF of ten, the wearer will only take in one-tenth of the contaminant present in the air, if that much.
Types of Respirators
Air respirators come in two basic types. A person must choose between an air-purifying respirator and an atmosphere-supplying device. Each option has benefits and drawbacks to consider when making this choice.
Air-purifying respirators make use of cartridges, canisters, or filters to remove contaminants from the air. The ambient air moves through the air-purification feature before it reaches the person wearing the device. There are several types of air-purifying respirators.
Particulate respirators are one option a person should consider, particularly if most potential threats come in the form of dust, mists, and fumes. These devices capture the particles and become more effective as the particles collect on the filter. When they do so, they fill in the spaces between the fibers. This device uses a filter that must be replaced when the wearer finds they can no longer breathe easily. However, particulate respirators cannot protect a person against vapors or gases.
Gas and vapor respirators will be needed if there are hazardous gases or vapors present in the air. These devices use chemical filters, referred to as canisters or cartridges, to remove these substances from the air. They only work with specific gases or vapors and offer no protection against airborne particulates. If this option is selected, the wearer must ensure they have extra filters on hand. Once the filter reaches its absorbing capacity, it no longer provides protection. The service life of the cartridge or canister depends on several factors, and the wearer can estimate how long it will last be using one of several models.
Combination respirators offer protection from both particulates and gases. They have filters designed to protect the user from these hazards. However, these respirators tend to be heavier. A person must take this into account when determining which respirator, they should buy.
Atmosphere-supplying respirators provide air to the user from a self-contained source. This is the type of tank scuba divers and firefighters use. They contain breathing gases of high purity, so the user does not need to rely on air from the atmosphere. Why types of atmosphere-supplying respirators are offered today?
Air-supplied respirators, also known as airline respirators, use a hose to provide the wearer with clean, safe air. This air is provided with the help of compressed air contained in a stationary source. The device doesn’t weigh much but can deliver air for an extended period. However, user mobility decreases when this type of respirator is used, and the device could fail if the hose is damaged.
Self-contained breathing apparatuses provide clean air through a wearable supply pack. They don’t restrict movement like air-supplied respirators can. Choose a closed-circuit device and receive air for up to four hours. An open-circuit device can only provide a maximum of 60 minutes of clean air.
Combination respirators provide a person with a backup air supply in the event the primary supply fails. This backup supply comes in the form of an auxiliary supply that is self-contained. A person should not count on this backup supply, however, as it is only designed to provide them with enough air to escape a dangerous situation. A person might also use this device when they have to enter a confined space.
Additional Personal Protective Equipment
While a respirator will provide clean air for the wearer, it won’t protect them from other hazards, such as those that affect the skin. Other personal protective equipment will be needed for this purpose. A protective suit is ideal for safeguarding the skin from hazardous materials, including chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological hazards. The right suit will protect a person from airborne particles, gases, and vapors.
When choosing this suit, look for one that is lightweight and resistant to tears and punctures. The suit won’t be of much help if it is damaged. It cannot provide the needed level of protection.
In addition, look for one that all family members can easily put on. Time may be of the essence during a crisis, and parents will need to protect themselves quickly while helping children who cannot put on their own suits. By choosing ones with zippers and elastic openings, parents can make certain young children can put their own suits on rapidly. Check the compatibility of the suit with the selected respirators to ensure they will work together for the optimal level of protection.
Every person needs to be prepared for the worst at all times. For example, 9/11 took the world by surprise, as did the global pandemic. The hope is that these items will never be needed. However, it’s always best to have them on hand. A person who does can then be available to help others who may not have prepared to the same extent. By working together, more people can survive an emergency and work together during the recovery process. Learn more about respirators and other personal protective equipment today to ensure you are ready for anything. Once you have these items on hand, you will have peace of mind that you have done everything possible to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.