Technically, the use of chemical weapons in conflicts has been banned since 1925 under the Geneva Protocol. However, this hasn’t stopped nations and terrorist groups all over the world from using chemicals both in warfare and in suppressing civilians. Hundreds of chemical attacks have been documented in the last decade alone. This, and many other reasons like it, is why you should have a gas mask on hand. (h/t to AskAPrepper.com)
While other pieces of gear should be at the top of your list as a prepper, such as first aid equipment and a self-defense weapon, a gas mask is still useful for a variety of different situations.
The main purpose of a gas mask is to make sure that you are breathing in clean air. If there are toxins in your immediate atmosphere, a fully functional gas mask can keep most of them out of your lungs.
Air filters vary in design and effectiveness. For the most part, they will use an item, such as activated charcoal, that can attract and remove any contaminants from the air you breathe. (Related: 3 DIY gas masks you can make to prepare for disaster.)
Note, however, that gas masks aren’t meant to be worn all the time. No matter how great your filters are, they will eventually lose their effectiveness. If you find yourself in a situation wherein you need to wear a gas mask, make sure to head for the nearest area with fresh air as soon as possible.
Before you go to the hardware store to buy a gas mask, know that there are certain things you need to consider before making your purchase.
Firstly, understand that a gas mask is a significant investment. Cheaper gas masks found in army surplus stores probably won’t be as effective as you think. Most likely, the gas masks you will find at these stores are defective or outdated models. Still, if you feel like you have no other choice, a cheap gas mask from an army surplus store is better than nothing.
Once you’ve bought a good gas mask, your purchase doesn’t end here. The filters that your gas mask needs to be an effective piece of survival gear will also cost you significantly, since each filter can only last, realistically, more or less eight hours. Some high-end and chemical-specific filters may be able to last significantly longer.
Secondly, you need to learn how to use a gas mask. It’s not as easy as simply putting it on. Depending on the gas mask you use, there will be several steps you need to take in order to make sure you’re breathing in filtered air when you wear your mask.
Moreover, understand that you should get a gas mask right now. If you don’t have a gas mask on hand, you wouldn’t be able to protect yourself from a chemical or biological attack, which may come without warning.
Lastly, your gas mask is a means to an end, not the end itself. The gas mask can keep you alive if you have to enter areas where the air is toxic or if you need time to run away from a chemical or biological attack. However, you can’t survive with only your gas mask. It isn’t practical to wear for extended periods of time.
As long as you understand why you need a gas mask, and that it is an instrument with which to protect yourself short-term, then you should be well-prepared for what to do when SHTF.