Sunday, February 21, 2021

Mask safety in the field


Due to the recent health crisis, emergency deployments may be impacted due to problems sourcing NIOSH/FDA approved masks. Also, there is confusion about the proper care and use of N95 masks. This document’s objective is to describe in detail what a N95 mask protects against and guidelines and alternatives to their use to both to protect emergency responders and to provide aid to the public when it most needs it.

What is a N95 Mask

(From Wikipedia) An N95 mask or N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering face-piece respirator that meets the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles.

N95 is the most popular type of face mask. Surgical respirators labeled “N95 surgical” have additional qualities that have additional medical protections. P95 masks do the same but have protections against oil inhalation. Standard dust or Surgical masks do not create a seal which allows contaminants to be breathed around the edges of the mask.

Equivalent Standards

Olathe CERT does not recommend using anything other than N95 rated respirator for hazardous work however if supplies are limited and N95 masks are not available then members may substitute KN95(China) and FFP2(EU) certified masks from a reputable source.

Proper Care and Use of a N95 mask


Masks should be stored in a sealed, rigid, sterile, dry environment.


  • If you have a beard trim it back so that the mask is able to get a seal. It is advised that you shave all facial hair for the best possible seal
  • Clean your hands and face and sanitize
  • Apply medical gloves
  • Grasp the mask around the edges
  • Fit the base of the N95 mask to your chin, it should ride low on your nose but completely cover your mouth and nose with no gaps
  • Move the bottom elastic band around the back of your head beneath your ears
  • Move the top most elastic band over your head over your ears
  • Using your fingers apply pressure to the nasal band and adjust the edges of the mask so that the mask has a good seal around your face.
  • Cup your hands around the mask and exhale sharply to detect leakage
  • Re-adjust the mask as needed
  • Removal, Storage and Reuse

An N95 mask may be removed and reused up to 5 times unless it has been in contact with aerosolized body substances, or otherwise becomes soiled. When a Mask is removed in order to re-use it, store it in a bag and take care when re-applying it so as not to contaminate the inside of the mask with your fingers. It is also important to not crush or deform the mask. The bag needs to be steryl and semi permeable like paper or have a desiccant packet to remove excess moisture.
  • Open the storage bag
  • While wearing gloves move the bottom elastic band over your head
  • Then grasp the base of the mask with one hand
  • Move the top elastic band over the top of your head
  • Carefully remove the mask taking care not to touch the insides of the mask
  • Place the mask carefully in the storage bag and seal it.


Any mask that has been in proximity to body substances or has undergone more than 5 re-uses, been soiled or any other reason is deemed no longer fit to be used; it should be disposed of as medical waste.

On Reuse or Reconditioning

There are no safe and/or practical methods for cleaning a mask in the field. Safety best practices recommend replacing a disposable N95 Mask if it becomes soiled, exceeds its maximum number of uses or after one work day whichever comes first.

Performing Labor When Wearing A Mask

A properly fitted mask restricts airflow, advanced n95 mask systems more so than disposable masks. When working while wearing any mask be sure to pace yourself and take frequent breaks to cool down and to catch your breath. When wearing an N95 mask be sure to avoid removing the mask excessively and to replace the mask very carefully to avoid contamination. If you intend to do heavy work be sure to pack extra masks and plenty of safety supplies, cleaning supplies and water.

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