Q: IN GENERAL, WHAT MAKES YOUR PRODUCTS DIFFERENT THAN OTHERS?
A: Our products use the highest thermally resistant fabrics available, in very specific weaves, with our unique designs. Secondly, our designs are user friendly, construction is first quality. The result is a high performance & user friendly mask.
Q: HOW DO YOUR MASKS AND RESPIRATOR HOUSINGS/COVERS COMPARE TO OTHERS?
A: First, let’s examine the 8 possible options wildland firefighters have for face & respiratory protection
#1- The cotton bandanna: Can be purchased for about $1-3. Minimal thermal and radiant heat protection, as the ignition point of cotton is very low (about 120 degrees F). The woven cotton fabric offers little in filtration, while allowing vapors and particulate to pass through; particles as large as 200 microns (unwashed, clean, new) and up to 400-600 microns (washed, worn, used) pass through. The bandanna does not “cup” the users mouth & nose, making it both somewhat difficult to breathe through; fit and comfort leave much to be desired.
Summary: This option suffers from inefficient air exchange, inadequate and inefficient particulate filtration, very low thermal resistance and inadequate protection against wildland burning embers, flame & heat.
#2- The standard, structure helmet shroud: Constructed of a single or double layer of FR fabric, (typically Nomex fiber blend). Typical wildland specific models attach to the helmet and cover the head, neck and face when fastened. Structural shrouds have much less coverage, usually only ear flaps.
Summary: The design and materials used can offer minimal to moderate thermal protection, but offers little to no respiratory relief.
#3- The structural firefighting protective hood: Typically constructed from FR fabrics, containing Nomex or PBI fiber blends. Covers wraps the entire head and neck, but because it is designed to be used with SCBA face piece, this option leaves the entire front of the face exposed, including ones mouth and nose; frefighters are forced to pull up the stretchable material over the mouth and nose for any protection.
Summary: Design does not adequately protect the face, offers little to no respiratory relief and retains much body heat.
#4- The Bandit scarf: A lightweight, two layer cotton bandanna with an aluminum nose pinch bar riveted over the nose area and a drawstring to keep it tight to the face. A single layer of activated charcoal fabric is sewn into the mouth area serves as a “filter” . The thermal performance of the Bandit is minimal, similar to a cotton bandanna. The lightweight thin cotton material is not sufficient to endure the rigors of normal firefighting usage; both design and materials cannot provide adequate thermal or respiratory protection. Additionally, the filter material disintegrates within just a few washings.
Summary: About the same protection level as the typical cotton bandanna, cannot hold up to machine washings (destroyed after 2 or more washings) and difficult to breathe through.
#5- The Respro Fire Brigade mask: This mask uses a single layer rubber (neoprene) with vent slots and the same aluminum nose pinch bar riveted to the nose area. The mask fastens at the back of the the users neck with hook and loop (Velcro) fabric. It covers the mouth and nose and cheeks, but offers no neck coverage. It fits very close to the face. The filter is a cotton and activated carbon filter that snaps onto the inside of the mask. Thermal protection is minimal at best; neoprene is a petroleum based product, not inherently fire resistant and its ignition temperature can vary from 200 to 500 degrees F. However, the worst hazard becomes apparent when neoprene reaches its ignition temperature, as neoprene then melts. This means the mask can literally melt onto your face inflicting severe facial burns. Further, the gases released when melting are hazardous. The filter for the Respro Fire brigade mask is a “specialized” (proprietary) filter, which means the buyer is forced to purchase a costly replacement filter (around $20US) when the filter becomes damaged or restrictive due to contaminate saturation. The neoprene itself is not especially durable.
Summary: Uncomfortable hot to wear indue to neoprene material (think wetsuits for divers & surfers). Cannot be washed beyond a few times before it falls apart. Expensive replacement filters. Extremely hazardous if neoprene rubber melts to skin.
#6- The “Manta Ray” mask: A two layer bandanna style mask with drawstring to keep it tight to the face. Uses FR carbon fabric. Does not have a filter for respiratory protection but has sufficient room to allow some filters to fit inside.
Summary: This option uses good FR material, offering more thermal protection than a cotton bandanna, but suffers from lack of airspacing in critical areas. Minimal particulate protection.
#7- The “WHIFFS” mask: A 2 layer fabric mask that uses a “bean-bag” pouch style wet filter that attaches at 3 hook & loop (Velcro) points inside of the mask. The mask fastens at the back of the the users neck with hook and loop (Velcro) fabric. The outer layer of the WHIFFS is thermally resistant fabric, however the inside fabric is polyester. Polyester takes longer to catch fire than cotton or linen, but when it does ignite, it melts (around 160 - 200 degrees F). Melting polyester can be extremely dangerous, as this can result in scalding burns above and beyond direct flame/radiant heat.
The filter is a polyester bag about the size of fist, filled with styrene foam beads and soaked in aloe vera gel. It is packaged in a foil pouch. Howeve, for this filter to remain effective, it must remain thoroughly wet, becoming less than effective when dry. This presents a logistical issue for firefighters, as one must be continually removing the filter from the mask and storing it in its foil pouch, in order to keep the filter “alive” and usable for future use. This mask is marketed directly to firefighters and advertised to the remove particulate, toxic fire gases and carbon monoxide. However this claim is dubious, as the largest respirator companies like 3M and Scott have yet to create a filter that can remove carbon monoxide molecules in sufficient quantity relative to a humans respiratory volumetric requirements, even for a human at rest. This filter is essentially, a “bean bag” with water gel. Lastly, the filters cost approximately $6US each, a costly replacement item. Independent laboratory testing could not be found.
Summary: Although sold and marketed directly to firefighters this option is quite possibly the most hazardous because of its polyester and styrene foam materials, materials unthinkable in standard firefighter PPE.
#8- The Hot Shield HS-2 mask: This mask differ greatly from the competitors, both in design and materials. Hot Shield HS-2 was designed by firefighters exclusively for firefighters. It is a patented (U.S. Patents # 5,628,308 & 5,823,188) dual function, multiple layer face protector mask designed specifically for wildland firefighting and uses CarbonX fabrics inside and out, the most inherently thermally resistant fabric in the world. The HS-2 has a “filter pocket” at the mouth and nose area of the inside of the mask to allow insertion of a low level N-95 respirator filter. This filter pocket also creates a “cone” of air space between the mouth and the mask, thereby reducing the “claustrophic” feeling common to other masks. Additionally, this air-spacing design between the lips and mouth of the user and the mask filter enhance critical thermal protection performance. Because the HS-2 uses fabric and not a silicone or rubber mold, it cannot does offer a 100% sealing surface to the face. The mask is solidly constructed and is popular among firefighters accustomed to wildland firefighting operations and is U.S. patented
The replacement filter is non-proprietary; just about any low-level N-95 with exhalation valve respirator filter can be used with this model, thereby keeping replacement costs reasonable & providing a options in re-purchases of filters. The HS-2 replacement filter is a N-95 respirator filter with exhalation valve, using cotton fabric “sandwiching” a layer of steam activated charcoal/carbon. The filter will eventually “load-up” with water vapor, creating more breathing restriction, however, the HS-2 is designed for intermittent or brief periods of use, not constant use.
Q: YOU HAVE SEVERAL OTHER MODELS...WHAT ABOUT THOSE AND WHY?
A: While the HS-2 model is our most popular and best selling model, we make other types to satisfy the requests of firefighters to have different options. The UB-V2 Ultimate Bandanna is a more “minimal” option; it has no accommodation for a N-95 filter or other and was designed specifically for those firefighters who simply want burn protection but no fine particulate protection. The UNI-V2 Ultra Shroud Extreme is an extremely thermally resistant shroud that can be attached to nearly any helmet with the included packet of accessory straps. It is the only shroud we know of that allows the firefighter to breathe directly through the shroud’s mesh overlap, offering some measure of particulate protection while still offering high heat protection. The HS-4 model is designed specifically to protect one’s face and the Sundstrom SR-100 half face canister style respirator in a similar fashion to the HS-2 design. The HS-5 does the same around the Draeger Xplore 3500 half face respirator.
Q: WHY DO FIREFIGHTERS NEED THIS LEVEL OF PROTECTION?
A: Wildland firefighters need both thermal protection and airborne particulate protection, common hazards during everyday wildland fires, yet other products cannot adequately protection human skin either by the specific design or materials or both. A wind driven fire will produce radiant heat sufficient to cause severe burns to the face, neck and ears. Firefighters will cough up black phlegm for days after the fire, suffer inflamed & irritated respiratory tracts, all due to the inhalation of smoke & ash particulate common to all outdoor fires.
Q: HOW DOES THE HOT SHIELD FACE MASKS & HOUSINGS PROTECT ME?
A: Our unique designs, the proven science of insulating airspace and superior thermally protective materials combine to protect the firefighter like nothing else available. The outer shell of every Hot Shield mask, shroud or respirator housing is made of super tough & extreme fire resistant CarbonX fabric. This material far surpasses industry standards, is non-flammable and will not burn, melt, drip, ignite, shrink, or char when exposed to direct flame or extreme heat. When exposed to intense heat or flame, the CarbonX fiber blend carbonizes and then expands, eliminating any oxygen content within the fabric, tested to achieve an astonishing Limit of Oxygen rating of 55. This material is both highly resistant to molten metal splash, flammable liquids and provides excellent protection from arc flash hazards. The firefighter enjoys a safety garment that is lightweight, is soft & flexible, breathes well, wicks away moisture, and dries quickly, This enhances wearer’s comfort and productivity, reducing the potential for fatigue and heat stress. Lastly, the thermal protective properties of CarbonX don’t wash out or wear away. CarbonX accomplishes this with less weight than traditional PPE materials.
Q: ARE ANY OF THE HOT SHIELD PRODUCTS RESPIRATORS?
A: No, they are not. Respiratory relief is achieved differently for every model. The HS-2 has an integral filter pocket that accommodates any low-level N-95 dry or wet particulate filter mask. Filters are sold separately and are steam activated carbon sandwiched by cotton media The UB-V2 Ultimate Bandanna uses a double layer of CarbonX knit mesh to block large airborne ash particles. The UNI-V2 Ultra Shroud Extreme uses the same concept but in a helmet shroud. The HS-4 and HS-5 are masks/housings that fit onto & around two popular well known brands of half face cartridge style respirators (Sundstrom SR-100 & Draeger Xplore 3500), protecting both the face & the respirator itself.
Q: CAN THE HOT SHIELD MASKS PROTECT ME FROM SUPERHEATED AIR?
A: No. Only a positive pressure breathing apparatus can do that! However, in an environment like wildland firefighting operations, where a SCBA is impossible or impractical, the only remaining option is a negative pressure filtration device combined with extreme heat protection....which is exactly what our products do.....and do very well.
Q: ARE HOT SHIELD MASKS & SHROUDS COMPATIBLE WITH ALL FIRE HELMETS? CAN I USE MY CURRENT SHROUD?
A: Models HS-2 and UB-V2 are “stand-alone” masks that do not interfere with any helmet. Of course, the HS-4 & HS-5 models, combined with their respective half face respirators are completely compatible with any helmet as they are “stand-alone’ (not attached to the helmet). Any basic shroud will typically not completely wrap around any of these four models, but usually will wrap and fasten below the air exchange opening of the HS-2 and UB-V2, thereby achieving full coverage of the face. We highly recommend the use of our Ultra Shroud Extreme Helmet Shroud made of CarbonX, which will completely wrap around both the HS-2 and the UB-V2, still allowing air exchange due to the two layers of CarbonX knit mesh at the mouth/nose area overlap of the Ultra Shroud. Our Extreme shroud is compatible with nearly every wildland helmet made in the world as we package it with a set of fasteners to accomplish this.
Q: ARE THERE ANY MASKS INCLUDING HOT SHIELDs THAT MEET NFPA STANDARDS?
A: No, but the entire answer to this question is more detailed. The two standards applicable to the wildland firefighter are Standard #1977 “ Standard on Protective Clothing & Equipment for Wildland Firefighting” and #1984 “Standard on Respirators for Wildland Fire-Fighting Operations”. To simplify in general terms, NFPA Standard #1977 contains the thermal and design performance requirements for wildland fire-fighting clothing and equipment, but does not include respirators. NFPA Standard #1984 specifically contains all the requirements for wildland respirators.
Only here is where things get confusing for nearly everyone; NFPA Standard #1984 was published in the absence of mask/device/garment that could meet the standard. To date, no company has created a product/device/garment that can meet Standard #1984. Furthermore, Standard #1977 does not contain a section for face masks, only a section for face & neck “shrouds”.
Several NFPA #1977 performance tests were conducted by two independent laboratories on the 2 layer fabric combination of fabrics used in all the Hot Shield masks & respirator covers and tested to exceed all minimum performance ratings.
NFPA Tests conducted on our 2 layer combination included:
However, note the following technicality: Even if a product/device/garment is tested to meet to one or more sections of the standard, but is not tested to all sections of the standard, the product/device/garment cannot claim NFPA compliance. It is also important to note thermal protection requirements detailed in NFPA #1977 are set quite low; plain cotton woven garments will easily pass NFPA requirements! Therefore, it is vitally important not to lull ourselves into a false sense of security because our equipment met or exceeded these very low minimums, since our human skin begins to burn at a mere 116 degrees F.
Radiant Protective Performance test (RPP ASTM F1939)
Thermal Protective Performance test (TPP ISO 17492)
Flame Resistance Test (Vertical Flame test ASTM D6413)
Heat Shrink Resistance test
Cleaning/Shrinkage Resistance AATC 135 test
Seam Breaking ASTM 1683 test.
Q: ARE THE HOT SHIELDS COMPATIBLE WITH GOGGLES? WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
A: Low profile goggles with some type of foam work best. Remember, nearly every goggle wants to occupy the real estate spanning the bridge of your nose up to your forehead. Any type of face mask will need to share this area (the bridge of your nose) as an “anchor point”. We have found the “Wildcat” goggle works well.
Q: WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS DO YOU MAKE?
A: Hot Shield makes the “Web Case”, a storage bag/pouch for its masks (model WC-1). This bag is designed similarly to the SCBA face mask pouch on a firefighters structure coat, allowing the user quick access. The Web Case stores any Hot Shield face mask and still has enough room for a pair of goggles or other small items. Constructed of Cordura Nylon 600 denier with 2-way zippers Two short straps with snaps (on backside) allows quick install or removal to web gear or belt. Measures approximately 9” wide at top, 11” wide at bottom and expands to over 3” thick inside.
Hot Shield also makes the “Blazer”, a universal replacement goggle strap that replaces your existing continuous elastic band goggle strap. The Blazer uses Fastek type squeeze buckle (like the buckle on any backpack), so that you can put your goggles on without removing your helmet or mask, ready for use at a moments notice.