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Episode 187 S5-24

Gas Masks


Special Guest:

Dark Days in Denver Ch 24

Phil Rabalais

Dark Days in Denver continues as the battle in Denver begins, Mother Nature joins in the fight and the team is forced to wear gas masks in order to breathe. Today, Phil Rabalais, Host of the Matter of Facts podcast joins us to discuss the realities of owning a gas mask and it's usefulness as a preparedness necessity.

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A gas mask is a commonly suggested item as a prepping necessity but is it really an essential? The answer relies on your scenario and what you envision happening in your geographic region. Are you by a large city that could be a possible target of a chemical weapon or civil unrest? Do you live in close proximity to a factory that uses dangerous aerosol chemicals. Is there a chance of nuclear fallout affecting your area?


If you do invest in a mask, storing it in an air tight container is not a bad idea. At the very least it should be in a plastic bag or canvas container. This helps ensure that vermin and bugs do not get into it. It also prevents dust and mildew buildup. It will help extend the shelf life or your mask.


When purchasing a mask there are positives and negatives in regards to investing in military surplus. One big question you need to answer is: Where are you going to get replacement supplies? Will you be able to get more? Gas masks, and the filters needed for the mask, have a shelf life. After that time, they must be replaced. Also, when you buy military surplus you don't know how it was previously stored or how long it was previously used. If you buy a mask that is commercially available, you can order replacement parts. It comes sealed and packaged.


In a post collapse society you may want to ensure that you have the same gear the that the police and military are using so you can get more supplies for your mask. If you purchase a commercially available model, it may be easy to stock replacement parts now but harder to get replacement parts in a long term survival scenario. Also, military surplus is usually built by the lowest bidder. However, it is built to work and be very fool proof to use.


The filters on a mask will have to be changed. The traditional gas mask that you think of are built to filter aerosol gasses, water droplets that carry harmful substances through the air. Particulars from volcanic fallout will be a solid material that may clog a gas mask very quickly. For a situation with solid particulars in the air the better mask choice is a respirator similar to the ones painters use. What type of filter you will need and how often you need to change it will depend completely upon the scenario you are envisioning, the manufacturer's specs, and the type of material you are filtering.


Do your research when purchasing a mask to make sure you are getting the correct mask for your scenario and then research the life of the gear. The manufacturer will also be able to provide the shelf life of the unused filters. Different masks are built for different scenarios. Some are built for riot control agents. Look at the ratings, some specialize in different types of aerosols. 

If you are concerned about a nuclear threat, you are actually talking about solid particles in the air that carry the radiation. Again, you may be better off with a reparator instead of a gas mask. It will really depend upon the type of meltdown. If there is an explosition then it will be the solid particulars. If there is no explosion, there won't be as much particulars and less risk of poisoning. If you re in the radiation zone, no mask is going to help you. However if you are outside the zone but subject to fallout, you need an entire system of gear to keep the radiation off your skin and clothing. Military MOP gear is available at surplus stores but it may be overkill. MOP gear is designed for operators to stay in a dangerous area. As a civilian, you will most likely be evacuating a danger zone as soon as possible. If this is the case, a poncho, rubber gloves and a mask may be sufficient to get you to safety. Then you can remove and discard the outer layer.

If you are concerned about a terrorist chemical attack, it will most likely only effect a small area. It will dissipate quickly (depending on the specific chemical). How likely is it that your area will be affected? Most gasses can't travel that far, unless released in a confined area. Often times you can shelter in place and you will be protected from the effects. 

Depending on the crisis, the agent and the concentration, you may or may not have time to deploy your mask. However, immediate deployment is always best. In a high risk situation, it  should be carried at all time. There is no, "I'll go and find it." With most scenarios, you may not have a ton of warning. You need it staged for easy access. If you do receive a warning of a possible danger, for example a chemical plant meltdown," try to share the information with everyone you can.

Fitting the mask is fairly easy:

  1. Loosen the straps on the mask.

  2. Place the mask on your face. Put your chin in the chin cup.

  3. Lay the mask across your face. Make sure it's centered and feels like you have a good seal while moderately pressing on it.

  4. Typically there are four elastic straps on the mask. Tighten the top two first so the junction point on the top of the mask reaches the back ridge of your head. Then tighten the bottom two straps. The mask should feel well centered on your face with no drooping, pulling, etc.

  5. Seal the air inlet and take a deep breath. If you feel it's not tight or leaking, you need to readjust, check your equipment or get another one. It should fit naturally will no pulling or tugging. It should seal against your face when plugging the air inlet.


There is an ongoing debate over whether or not facial hair really affects the performance of gas masks. Clean shaven faces usually have a better fit. However there are types of masks available that work with beards. Pick your equipment and make sure it works for you. Remember though, hair is hard to decontaminate. Less hair is also better for overall hygiene. 

People new to wearing a mask should realize that they will need to learn to control their breathing. The mask will make it more difficult and you may start taking shorter more rapid breaths. This can lead to hyperventilation. Try to focus and take slow, deep breaths. 

Always practice with your gear, it needs to be second nature. Once you get it adjusted make sure you stage it in a carrier. Know how to get to it and get it on with your eyes closed. If you suspect a chemical is present, the first thing you should do is close your eyes and hold your breath.

To clear the mask after you put it on in a contamination zone, put it on first. Then, locate the one way valve that allows you to breath out. Cover the one way valve and blow out as hard as you can. This will ensure that you have clean air inside. After the mask is clear, breathe in and make sure your seal is good.

Here is some additional information that I received from a listener eager to provide you with more facts about purchasing gas masks:

This is a good summary of the essentials:

There are two main points on masks and filters. First, the mask and filter should use standard 40mm NATO threads. Second, the filter should be CBRN-rated (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) or at least NBC-rated (nuclear, biological, chemical). These filters will take care of anything you need to worry about (chemical leaks, chlorine, chemical weapons, biological weapons, pandemics, radioactive particles, etc.).

The CBRN/NBC filters typically have a five-year shelf life. They used to be ten years, and if stored in a cool, dark, dry place you will get at least ten years with the new ones.

The masks need to form a good seal on the face. I have these for my family:

Mestel Safety - Full-face Gas Mask, Anti-Gas Respirator Mask - Resistant to Chemical Agents and Aggressive Toxic Substances - Suitable for Pesticide and Chemical Protection - SGE 150 S/M

I’ve been driving around with one in the trunk of my car and enduring temperature extremes for 18 years (since around 9/11) and they still seem like brand new.

This is a good company I have used for a long time and they are trustworthy. They also have chemical suits and KIO3 tablets:

Also, never buy a mask from a surplus store. 90% of the time, they are worthless:

I appreciate all of the feedback from my listeners especially when it adds so much value to information. Thanks, keep it coming!!

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Dark Days in Denver Ch 24

Phil Rabalais

Phil Rabalais is a born Texan raised in Southeast Louisiana. He enlisted in the Louisiana Army National Guard, deployed to Iraq in 2004, and again for his state's Hurricane Katrina relief mission. After his enlistment, Phil graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana, with a BA in business management. He is a staunch free speech and Second Amendment advocate, a self-admitted prepper, and the host of the Matter of Facts podcast. The podcast is based in no small part on his belief in self-reliance, small government, and the right of people to defend themselves. He lives in Mandeville, Louisiana, with his wife of ten years and their daughter.

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