On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens reportedly died of smoke inhalation after an assault team set fire to the villa temporarily housing the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Later that month, several other fires were started around U.S. diplomatic facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, and the American school adjacent to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia. While these fires occurred at diplomatic facilities, similar situations can confront citizens at any time. In light of these incidents, we thought it would be a good time to discuss a practical solution that can help mitigate this threat.
Fires at diplomatic facilities caused by rampaging protesters are nothing new. The most commonly cited example is the 1979 facility seizure in Islamabad, Pakistan, that forced more than 100 embassy employees to hide inside a burning building for several hours. At State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom, the U.S. Embassy seizure in Islamabad had been cited as the most vivid example of the problems of mob violence, however, there is no doubt a new threshold that has been crossed. It's important to remember that the risk of smoke inhalation and fire is not unique to diplomatic facilities. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 70 percent of deaths and injuries in fires are caused by smoke inhalation rather than burns.
Without addressing the politics around the Benghazi investigation or attempting to second-guess the agents who were in the fight of their lives, one practical measure that could have mitigated the risk of smoke inhalation is a smoke hood. A smoke hood is a device specifically designed to protect individuals from smoke inhalation. The device is placed over the head and then cinched around the neck to block out toxic fumes. It also contains a filter that changes the dangerous and toxic fumes into safer air that can be consumed for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the model. This extra time will allow the wearer to move away from the fire and fumes and into safety.
Smoke hoods are designed to be portable and relatively lightweight, although they can be a bit bulky to carry on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of the potential inconvenience, a smoke hood could be used in a variety of situations, allowing escape from asmoke-filled building, subway car, bus or airplane. Like having a concealed weapon permit and carrying a weapon, these measures may never be needed, but there are times that only certain tools can literally save your life.
VIPs, CEOs and U.S. Secret Service protected persons routinely have smoke hoods next to their beds, in their safe havens, on their aircraft or carried by their protection details. On a positive note, anyone can buy a smoke hood and have it as part of their emergency preparation. Granted you may never need one, but if you do, it will be money well spent and possibly the only thing that can save your life at that moment in time.