Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear is never a single item. The Flame Retardant (FR) coveralls and Smoke/Fire Escape Hood are a great foundation. But additional PPE is required for success. I am thinking that the minimum, additional PPE would include:

Footwear –
Unless you are ready to pull a John McClane and walk barefoot over broken glass without stopping (yipee-ki-yea), footwear can easily make or break survival. Especially since most modern, professional women wear heels or sandals that are far from utilitarian. The modern, professional women have recognized this fact and you can watch the parade of athletic shoes for actually getting them to and from work.

Great quality, safety boots that are waterproof, have thermal insulation, and are designed for workers to wear all day every day are expensive. Several hundred dollars expensive. The cheaper alternative that I’m considering are slip-on, rubber “wellies” with a thermal, felt, inner boot and safety toe. They seem to have been originally designed as a compromise boot for the family farm setting. Big box and large shoe discounters have them seasonally for around $50.

Thick, wool, hiking socks would be a nice addition. But the wellies could be pulled on over bare feet to speed egress from an unsafe condition. Slip off the high heels and stockings, slip on the boots (without socks) for the quick getaway. Later, when safe, take the moment to don the socks so there will be no blisters if a long hike is needed.

Gloves –
Burned or cutup hands can severely limit one’s ability to get out of harm. From climbing over the sill of a broken window, to pulling/pushing debris out of the way — leather palmed work gloves are a necessity for getting through rough passages. And once outside, winter cold or drenching rain can limit one’s survival. Additional layer(s) of gloves for weather conditions are also necessary to ensure survival. A thin, under glove of wool would add warmth. Maybe dishwashing gloves (Playtex style) as a water barrier. Even a pair of oversized, leather (tow rope capable), ski mittens for those who live in the really cold weather regions.

Goggles –
The smoke/fire hood is a limited time use item. Just dust in the air (as in the extreme of 9/11 NYC) can cause eye irritations that limit an individual’s ability to accurately assess and survive what is going on. So some sort of flying debris protection for the eyes is appropriate. Additionally, it should accommodate existing eye-wear and be shatter resistance. I’m leaning towards cheap, lab style, splash goggles that are designed for over the eyeglass wear and shatter resistance rated.

Headgear –
Even the civilian CERT training mandates some sort of safety (impact) hat. It seems that the cheapest “bump” hard hat will satisfy that FEMA requirement. But emergency escape through rough passages calls for a little different style of protection. More like a rescue or caving helmet. I would prefer a solid, plastic shell (without all the vent cutouts) so that it can help in inclement weather once outside.

As an additional thermal protection (both from heat/fire, and the weather elements) would be a FR balaclava. Time permitting, it could be donned before the fire/smoke hood for added protection or just rolled up as a knit cap during cold weather (either with or without the hard hat/helmet). I especially like the “cam-shell” style of balaclava over the simple circle opening. The cam shell allows the fabric to be pulled up over the chin and nose when not wearing a mask, or pulled down under the chin when wearing the mask.

D. Period – All rights reserved – 2009 – Use permitted by all only with attribution.

Originally posted on July 4, 2009 @ 7:00 pm