DHS Helps Create New Emergency Escape Hood

When first responders and security guards came to the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s “Tell Us What You Need” table, heading their list was an emergency escape hood worthy of James Bond: a “one size fits all” concealable hood weighing under a pound, folding to the dimensions of a DVD case, and donnable in 10 seconds.

Furthermore, the hood must be maintenance-free, filter nerve, blood, and blister agents, remove toxic industrial chemicals, and fit two-to-a-breast pocket -- one for the protectee, the other for the protector.

It was a very tall order.

Unlike Kevin Costner’s Bodyguard, the typical bodyguard finds his daily routine, well, routine. For the possible scenario when it’s not, however, that guard needs tools that are convenient, stealthy, and swift. Chemical and biological attacks can be accidental, but if a particular protectee, is in a particular place, at a particular time, and comes under attack, it’s usually not a coincidence. Chances are good that those in the business and those they are protecting are not carrying around those undeniably unglamorous heavy masks or hoods for the possibility. Perhaps the DHS Science and Technology Directorate might come up with something better.

Through S&T’s open procurement process, Avon Protection Systems of Wiltshire, UK (with offices in Cadillac, Mich.) was selected in early 2007 to develop and produce a mask with some very tight specifications. Designated the EH-15 (for Escape Hood-15 minutes) this innovative mask, when packed, is only 3/4-inch thick. It provides at least 15 minutes of protection against chemicals and biologics, has a three-year shelf life, and highly efficient particulate filters. In October, it successfully passed S&T’s Design Review. In February, the EH-15 completed its Critical Design Reviews. To date, 10 prototypes have been made and the first batch of EH-15 masks is to be produced in the April/May timeframe.

“Crime in this country has indeed included weapons of mass destruction… witness the anthrax attacks in 2001,” said Jalal Mapar, S&T’s Program Manager for the EH-15 program. “A concealable escape hood like this will provide protection for both the guard and his protectee until both can get out of a dangerous situation. It was one tough assignment, but I’m glad that we here at S&T were able to develop such a unique mask technology in such a short time.”

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