Understanding that law enforcement officers and other first responders may be subject to chemical attack is a thought that is always in the back of the mind. It does not happen often, but when it does, preparedness is the key. Having protective equipment is marvelous, but if users are not trained effectively on the correct use and handling, the results can be devastating.
When faced with a situation of civil unrest, the surrounding environment is hostile and unpredictable. The time to learn how to utilize personal protective equipment is not when it is needed, but before an event occurs that requires use. When wearing a gas mask, things that are natural such as field of view, drinking water, and breathing itself is approached differently. These little nuances may mean the difference between keeping first responders alert and ready to assist.
Peripheral vision can be obstructed by the edging of the mask. This is even more evident for personnel who require glasses to assist them in sight. Specialized prescription lenses are designed to help eliminate the decreases visual accuracy in these situations. That being said, it is important to realize that when a prescription is changed in the civilian realm, the prescription for the PPE inserts must also be updated. An improper fit of the mask can also lead to fogging of the interior lenses. This will obstruct view as well, so it is essential that personnel are well versed in how to properly place gas masks over their face.
The wearing of protective equipment often causes an increase in body temperature, and water is going to be an essential intake. This will help prevent dehydration. Learning to maneuver the drinking tube so that the result is not a face full of liquid takes practice. Repetition of this task will help first responders to become comfortable with the process for drinking much needed water in a hostile environment.
Most important is breathing while in protective gear. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) are either open-circuit or closed circuit compressed, filtered air or pure oxygen. Advancements in technology have allowed for reduced weight compensation for devices. Tank sizes have also been minimized to make it convenient for users to carry. The positioning can either be on the back or harnessed to the waist for easy transport.
The main component to success when faced with a hostile and unknown environment is to be prepared to use the equipment that will allow unhindered job performance. Respiratory protection is a welcomed addition to getting through the situation and being capable of successfully helping others in need.