Has the time come for everyone to make a PPE kit? PPE or personal protective equipment probably invokes memories of “Contagion” or some other movie with viral outbreak. Survival movies aren’t real, they are just movies, right? While infected people most likely won’t turn into aggressive zombies, an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic shows that movie disaster scenarios are actually lurking and might happen at any time.
As an ardent prepper or survivalist, I believe you have food and water supplies, first aid kits, as well as the abundance of prepper gear from propane burners and gardening tools to hunting and protective weapons. However, your guns and natural remedies are useless against small, tiny, invisible enemies – viruses and bacteria. Not to mention bioweapons. Or risks of radiation and chemical hazards if severe incidents occur in our industrial facilities.
What Is a PPE Kit?
While we often relate PPE to full-body suits resembling space suits, it encompasses a wide variety of protective suits and uniforms. It includes protective goggles, helmets, gloves, and gas masks. Furthermore, this equipment is usually highly specialized to provide protection from typical occupational hazards. So, policemen, soldiers, firefighters, medical professionals, construction workers, and even athletes use PPE more or less regularly. Yes, you got it right, football helmets and body armors are both PPE.
So, there’s a wide variety of gear that goes under the PPE umbrella. What’s more, the definition of PPE varies from country to country, and the laws vary by state. While there are no clear borderlines, the essence remains the same. It is the equipment that people wear to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards. These hazards can be mechanical, chemical, radiological, electrical, physical, biohazards, and more.
Why You May Need a PPE Kit
A Personal Protective Equipment kit usually ranks pretty low on the survival essentials lists. There are two reasons for this. First, it is seen as the last resort. Second, it covers such a wide range of gear that it’s difficult to classify it. However, lots of survival items, such as gloves, goggles, or gas masks are PPE. So, you don’t have to hoard all kinds of protective equipment, but a basic PPE kit would come in handy in many disaster scenarios. Be careful, though. The higher the level of protection, the more training you need to use it properly. It also gets more expensive.
Still, some basic and relatively simple gear can protect you against many dangers. Choosing more specific equipment depends on a hazard assessment. For example, if you live near nuclear plants or hazardous cargo routes or storages, having a hazmat suit could make all the difference. Although, your first line of defense should be the readiness to evacuate quickly.
How to Put Together Your OwnKit
There are two ways of using personal protective equipment. You can wear a complete suit or you can use individual items for each part of your body.
Hazmat Suit and Other Full Protective Garments
Full protective garments include a wide variety of protective suits. Hazmat suit, bomb suit, wetsuit, spacesuit, fire proximity suit, to mention just a few. Obviously, most of them are very specific and designed to protect from particular and determined threats such as bomb fragments (bomb suit), cold water (wetsuit), or pressure and extreme temperatures (spacesuit). However, unless your bug out location is on another planet or in deep waters, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever need most of these specialized suits. So, when we talk about full protective garments we usually refer to hazmat suits.
Hazmat suits are used by firefighters, paramedics, and workers in toxic environments. Also, all kinds of specialists and scientists who work with hazardous materials or in hazardous environments regularly wear these suits. A hazmat suit can provide protection from heat, biological, chemical, and radioactive materials.
However, not all hazmat suits are the same. Some of them come with a self-contained breathing apparatus while others don’t. Depending on the level of protection and type of threats, hazmat suits are divided into four different types. To learn more about it read EPA and OSHA classifications. If you live in Europe, it’s just a little bit more complicated. There are six levels in their classification.
PPE by Body Area
Hopefully, you’ll never need to wear a hazmat suit. On the other hand, some pieces of protective gear are useful in non-catastrophic scenarios. So, let’s break it down.
Protective headgear includes helmets, respirators, gas masks, face shields, goggles, earplugs, and some more.
All these items are more or less specific to protect from particular dangers. Obviously, you won’t be needing earplugs or welding masks in case of radiation hazards. So, most of these products aren’t necessary for your PPE kit. Nevertheless, surgical masks, respirators, and gas masks can be useful in many situations.
Surgical or face masks reduce chances to catch different particles, but it doesn’t offer full protection. However, a significant reduction is often enough to keep you safe.
N95 respirators will protect you from viruses and bacteria but not from gases and vapors. If you want protection from biological, and chemical hazards, you’ll need a gas mask.
Protective body gear is relatively simpler than headgear. Typically, it comes in two varieties: gowns and bodysuits. Gowns are usually disposable and prevent contamination of your clothes or skin. They may or may not be fluid resistant.
Bodysuits can be disposable or reusable. Depending on the purpose, they offer different levels of protection.
There are also highly specialized body protection products such as bulletproof vests, commonly used by military personnel.
Hands and Feet Protection
Disposable latex gloves are the most common piece of protective equipment. They are affordable, lightweight, compact, and prevent contamination. Just like with other protective gear it is very important to put them on properly. And as soon as you complete the task you should dispose of them.
As for the feet, there’s a variety of protective shoes to meet occupational requirements.
If you think that you don’t need a PPE kit, well think again. Even if your bug out location is in the woods and it is fully supplied to help you survive and thrive, you can’t always count on it. In the case of a pandemic, your city can be quarantined before you manage to evacuate. And you’ll have to deal with the situation without equipment you’ve stashed in your bug out location. This is just one possible scenario where the PPE kit will allow you to be more prepared.
However, you can’t really cover all possible catastrophic events, so don’t go overboard with protective gear. It really comes down to your personal assessment of potential threats in your area. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this stuff, but better safe than sorry.