An N95 mask is a very common item that you might find in a prepper’s stockpile of emergency supplies which is why many of you will be surprised to learn that they might not actually provide you with the protection that you thought they would.
As preppers, we try to store items that we think will help us survive a number of major disasters. One of the things that many preppers fear is a global pandemic illness that spreads across the world infecting hundreds of millions of people.
With this in mind, many preppers store what are called N95 masks although some people refer to this item as an N95 respirator. Most of you are probably familiar with this item but for those of you who aren’t, it is basically a mask that you wear over your face to filter out particulates that might be in the air you breath. They can also help to prevent you from spreading germs through the air that you exhale.
Unfortunately, many preppers have unrealistic expectations when it comes to exactly how effective these masks actually are at providing protection from things like bacteria and viruses.
What Does the N95 Rating Actually Mean?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, “The N95 designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95% of very small test particles”. This means that these masks have the ability to block more particles than the cheap paper face masks that you might pick up at your local home improvement store.
Why an N95 Mask May Not Be All That You Thought It Was
If you’ve ever watched the news and seen emergency personnel dressed from head to toe in protective suits, you’ve probably noticed that they aren’t wearing N95 masks to protect themselves. You may have also realized that the US military uses specialized gas masks to protect them from things like biological weapons instead of a simple N95 type of mask.
The main reason that these masks may not live up to your expectations when it comes to providing you with the protection that you thought they would is that they are not a “one size fits all” type of product. In order to provide the protection that the rating represents, they need to fit the person who is wearing them absolutely perfectly. If the fit is imperfect, particulates can pass through the small gaps between the mask and your face.
These gaps can render the ability to filter out contaminants virtually useless!
To further quote the FDA, they also say, “If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death.” They go on to state that these masks are NOT designed for people with facial hair or children as well.
Is There Any Use for an N95 Respirator Mask in the World of Prepping?
I won’t go as far as to say that these masks are completely useless but in order to be effective, they MUST fit the individual that will be wearing them perfectly. This means that if you have a box of them stashed away with your emergency supplies, there’s a very high likelihood that they won’t fit all the members of your family.
As a matter of fact, unless you took the time to have them fit tested when you purchased them, they probably don’t fit anyone in your family. Another thing to keep in mind is that as people gain or lose weight, the shapes of their face will often change. This means that even if the particular type of masks that you have stored for yourself were properly fit tested, if you’ve gained or lost weight since then, they may not fit you now.
Keeping in mind that these masks do have their limitations, I can’t says that they don’t have a place in prepping at all. What I will say is that if you choose to use them, make sure that you go to someone that is experienced in N95 mask fit testing before you decide which masks to purchase.
Warning: I hate to keep quoting the FDA so this time I’ll paraphrase a warning that they have on their website. Basically they advise that people who have respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make it difficult for them to breathe should check with their doctor before using these types of masks.
Wait, Don’t Go Just Yet!
Before you leave, I think you’ll really enjoy reading my article called, Zombie Apocalypse: The TRUTH Revealed!. It has some very intersting information about what the CDC has to say about Zombies in it.