Avoid Chemical Exposure: How to Create a CBRN Go-Bag
Throughout history, people have understood the importance of preparing a bag of supplies to help them survive a disaster. Anne Frank kept a bug-out bag at the door. Numerous survivors of Nazi concentration camps noted preparing supplies before they went on the run, and Rwandan genocide survivors report the same.
The fact is that it's not a strange concept for people to look at the world around them and then make preparations. We live in a world where industrial accidents happen, where everybody is within reach of a hypersonic ICBM, where terrorists persist, and where chemical weapons make appearances. As such, knowing how to create a CBRN go-bag can be the difference between life or death.
(Experimental Russian hypersonic aircraft. Image courtesy of Kirill Boresenko at Wikimedia Commons.)
Knowing all this, does it not make sense to prepare for the likelihood of some type of CBRN event hitting your home, at least to some measure? You've probably already thought about needing to evacuate your home (e.g., hurricane, riots, etc.) and have prepared a bug-out bag and plan accordingly. But what if it was a CBRN event? Do you have a plan, then? Could your bag provide you with the protection you would need for these particular threats?
If these answers concern you, you'll want to take a deeper look into what it takes to build a CBRN go-bag. We've covered this subject a bit here and here, but let's refine and tackle the issue to see if we can't add a bit more to the discussion.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Filtering Out the Valid Threats
How to Create a CBRN Go-Bag
The Final Gasp
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Filtering Out the Valid Threats
The first thing we need to do with creating a CBRN go-bag is to figure out what the most likely threats are in your region. Do you live near a nuclear reactor? Do you live close to a major city or other potential targets of a nuclear strike? Do wildfires plague your region, or are there facilities working with deadly chemicals such as chlorine not far from where you live?
If you're going to make a plan, you have to first know what the contingencies are that are most probable for your area. If you start with that, you'll be better off fine-tuning your CBRN go-bag to best suit your needs.
But a part of this is understanding what some of the actual threats are out there. We've covered riots, war, terrorist releases, and the like before, but are there other potential threats that would easily necessitate a CBRN go-bag? Let's take a look.
Disaster Situation #1 - Power Grid Attack Leading to a Chemical Release
The United States has recently seen a series of attacks against its electrical grid, with the Moore County, North Carolina attack seeming to spark the media's attention on the subject. While this wasn't the first of its kind – that "honor" would belong to the Metcalf substation attack in 2011 – it did seem to precipitate further strikes, whether from the same parties or copycats has yet to be determined.
And let's not forget, Moore County, North Carolina isn't exactly a booming metropolis. This is a rural county without the degree of infrastructure that a big city would have. But what Moore County does have is proximity to one of the largest military installations in the world – Fort Bragg. Southern Pines, a part of Moore County, was one of the impacted regions of this December 2022 attack. It's less than 30 miles from Fort Bragg.
And then after the Moore County attack made headlines around the world, the United States experienced five additional attacks within the Pacific Northwest alone. Since 2015, America has seen a 75% increase in attacks against our electrical grid. What does tomorrow hold?
This isn't the first type of action we've seen against our military bases either. Strange, military-grade drones keep popping up near military bases in Texas, foreign nation states keep buying land near our Air Force bases, and the recent substation attacks keep happening suspiciously close to American military installations.
Aside from the Moore County attack's proximity to Fort Bragg, the Graham, Washington attacks (multiple) occurred only a 30-minute drive from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Coincidentally, the Clackamas, Oregon substation attack was only a 19-minute drive from the US Army Portland Recruiting Battalion and 17 minutes from the Portland Air National Guard Base.
The point is that there is an abnormal pattern unfolding with these attacks. If somebody is willing to hurt a country by shutting off their power, they certainly don't care if those outages could lead to accidental chemical spills.
Facilities requiring active refrigeration of chemicals can easily have a severe vapor problem if some of those compounds begin to rise to room temperature. Consider the case of Richmond, California, in 2001. It was then that a truck hit a utility pole, causing a factory to be forced into a total plant shutdown due to power loss. Then, sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide began to escape from the facility.
Dual-comb spectroscopy gas detection systems.
If there is an intentional power loss in an area due to a covert act of war, chemical spills are entirely possible. So then the question is: how long until one of these attacks cascades into some type of chemical spill?
Disaster Situation #2 – Intentional Chemical Attack
In 2018, a former KGB agent and defector to England was assassinated, along with his daughter, while in London. What killed him? A distinctly Russian chemical weapon. Then, shortly after that, seven Russian military intelligence officers hacked The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as well as the Swiss lab that was investigating what chemical was used for the assassination. Then, if we look at the current Russo-Ukrainian War, we'll find that "Donetsk separatist" Eduard Basurin has said that the Russians could "turn to chemical troops who will find a way to smoke the moles out of their holes."
(The scene where KGB defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter were nearly assassinated Image courtesy of Peter Curbishley at Wikimedia Commons.)
The fact is that chemical weapons are still out there, and they're still being used. There are some (potentially false) allegations from Azov Battalion within Ukraine that a Russian drone dropped chemical munitions on them as well.
The point to take away from all this is that the threat of a chemical attack is not an unlikely scenario. Throughout World War 2, people everywhere carried their gas masks before leaving the house. Why? Because many of them remembered the widespread gas attacks from World War 1, they had a foe who wanted them dead, and both Hitler and Mussolini had plenty of chemical weapons stowed away.
Your grandparents were prepared for a chemical attack. Why aren't you?
Disaster Situation #3 - Helping Neighbors
A disaster to your plans to relax, perhaps.
If you live in a rural area, it's not uncommon to get a request to help somebody with cleaning out an old barn, house, or the like while you're at your day job and be expected to be there before you can go home. If this is the case, you may not have time to grab the PPE equipment you would like before you go into potentially nasty conditions.
(Image courtesy of JuliusMassius at Wikimedia Commons.)
Maybe your friend's hoarder mother has passed, and now he needs help cleaning her house. Perhaps it's an older gentleman with a bad back who needs assistance shoveling out his goat stalls. Are you going to be cleaning out an old mouse-ridden hunting cabin, scraping off lead paint, or messing with insulation?
Whatever it is that you're looking at, if you have PPE already in your car with a CBRN go-bag, you'll be able to help out your friends and family without having to resort to tying a bandana around your face.
Considering some of the risks of hantavirus and mouse droppings, toxic organic dust syndrome, and other unpleasant lung conditions, we think this most certainly can fall into CBRN territory.
Disaster Situation #4 - Nuclear Attack on Another Nation
You don't even have to be in the country that was hit by a nuclear strike to be impacted. All you have to do is be downwind. And as history has shown, downwind can be miles further than you imagined.
Let's start by examining nuclear meltdowns, events that release massive amounts of radiation into the environment but not anywhere near the scope of what a modern-day, surface-detonated hydrogen bomb would do.
In 2011, the nuclear power facility at Fukushima, Japan, began to experience a meltdown after an earthquake caused a massive tidal wave to breach the 19' tall wall built between the facility and the ocean. Once this took place, things rapidly grew worse. Reactors began to melt down, radiation was released, and several people in Japan were placed under radiation isolation.
Fukushima nuclear power plant
Japan is approximately 8783 miles from California. Suppose we use the jet stream models generated after the Fukushima event. In that case, we can estimate radiation to travel 50mph over the Pacific if radioactive fallout finds its way into the jet stream. Within 175 hours (a week), radiation from Japan would begin to reach California.
While officials stated that Americans didn't need to concern themselves with dangerously high levels of Japanese radiation, we later began to see radioactive rain in California, many dead animals, and other anomalies. With all of these disaster scenarios in mind, it is especially vital to understand how to create a CBRN go-bag.
A NOTE OF INTEREST
Admittedly, the water radiation at California beaches was typically listed at 2 Becquerels/cubic meter. These animal deaths were likely due to migrating from heavily contaminated areas, radiation accumulating up the food chain as bigger animals ate more and more contaminated smaller animals, and evaporation far out in the ocean carrying rainwater hundreds of miles to shore.
What about Chernobyl?
This wasn't even a ground-detonated strike, and it still released 20x the amount of radiation as Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined. And though it originated in Ukraine, the radiation emitted here drifted over to Scandinavia.
(Image courtesy of of CIA Factbook, Sting, MTruch, and Makeemlighter at Wikimedia Commons.)
And remember, these were "just" nuclear meltdowns. The surface detonation of an actual atomic weapon would release even more radioactive fallout into the air. And if you're downwind? Well, soon, you'll be getting to share in the festivities.
How to Create a CBRN Go-Bag
What type of gear should you carry in one of these kits? Are there different types of CBRN go-bags to consider? Let's see if we can help…
The CBRN Go-Bag Convenience Kit
As we've pointed out before, a considerable part of CBRN protection is having the gear you need when you need it. Your CBRN go-bag has to be convenient to carry if you want to increase the odds that it will be on your person when disaster strikes.
This is because people tend to prefer compact or subcompact handguns for everyday carry compared to full-size Glock 17s or Colt 1911s. They carry what is convenient and comfortable. Why? Because convenience matters. Why can your local corner convenience store charge twice the standard price for a gallon of milk? Because of convenience.
If something is inconvenient, we as human beings are apt to forego it. This is why we need to purposefully build convenience into our lives with the things necessary to us. Knowing how to create a CBRN go-bag means we need to develop a small, lightweight, easily portable kit that will give us at least some measure of protection against a CBRN event.
Here is what one of those kits may look like:
Several pairs of neoprene gloves
Why this loadout?
The gas mask and gloves are likely a given, but why the rest of the gear? Here's why.
If you're at work suddenly receiving a push notification that a nuclear-armed ICBM is on the way, as many in Hawaii did not too long ago, you will want the means to measure radiation post-blast. You'll need to know whether it's safe to go outside, how long you can stay out without a case of acute radiation sickness, and whether those in your shelter with you are radioactive or not.
The MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Dosimeter is one of the best ways to do that on the market without having to lug around a Geiger counter the size and weight of a brick. Instead, you can easily slip this dosimeter/Geiger counter into your pocket every morning and forget that it's even there until the moment calls for it.
Again, a sudden nuclear event doesn't necessarily have to wait for you to be at home to strike. It can just as quickly occur while you're on vacation or at the office. What do you think will happen when the government alerts the public that radiation is on the way? There will be mass panic along the roads as everybody runs for cover.
With some Thyrosafe in your kit, you can help ensure that your thyroid won't absorb dangerous radiation levels while you shelter in place. While working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nuclear survival scientist Cresson Kearny highly recommended some form of potassium iodide.
Why? Because these types of OTC "medicines" can save lives.
Aum Shinrikyo not only struck homes, but they also hit public transportation as well. Bad guys like striking where they know there are a lot of people. If they can cause maximum casualties, they believe it raises awareness of their cause. They want to strike public places as a result.
With any type of chemical event, having an MDG-1 Personal Decontamination Glove at hand could easily save your life or that of a loved one. The sooner you can get these substances off one's skin, the less they absorb.
How Much Does This CBRN Go-Bag Convenience Kit Weigh?
The most significant piece of kit here would be the TAPR or the full-face gas mask. If you had a large enough bag to hold your most important component, you wouldn't have difficulty adding the remaining items from the list above.
The MIRA Safety Military Pouch/Gas Mask Bag v2 would easily suffice for these purposes. It's large enough that you can stow away your gas mask with the filter already attached (so you don't have to fumble about attempting to screw on a filter with adrenaline-filled hands).
(Image courtesy of MIRA Safety Military Pouch/Gas Mask Bag v2)
Medical-grade neoprene gloves, Thyrosafe, an MDG-1 Personal Decontamination Glove, and a MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Dosimeter could easily be carried daily within your EDC bag as well without taking up too much space.
The above kit, minus the MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Dosimeter, would weigh in at around 3.4 pounds as well. That's not bad for at-the-ready CBRN protection daily.
The All-Hazards CBRN Go-Bag
What about the CBRN events that a convenience kit just won't cut it for? If you're at your home when you hear on the news that there's been a sarin attack upwind of your position, what can you do? In cases like these, you'll need extra gear, and this is where the All-Hazards CBRN Go-Bag comes into play.
Full-Face Gas Mask and Filter
Why This Loadout?
So why did we choose the above pieces of gear for an all-hazard CBRN go-bag? Here’s a bit of our philosophy as to the ‘why.’
Part of surviving a CBRN event is not only knowing what it is that you're dealing with but knowing when the agent is present or not. The MIRA Safety DETEHIT CWD-3 CBRN Detection Strips can quickly tell you whether there is a chemical weapon in the air, water, or food, will differentiate what class of agent you're working with, and will do this all reasonably quickly as well.
Why not a TAPR? If we're talking about an all-hazards CBRN bag, we need to ensure that we protect our face and eyes. While a half-face respirator is excellent for protecting one's lungs, if you're dealing with an infectious disease, blister, or nerve agent, you must ensure that your eyes and skin are covered. This is where a full-face gas mask is absolutely essential. If you protect every other part of yourself but your eyes and face, you're essentially going fishing with everything but a hook.
A HAZMAT Suit
For a long-term CBRN-tainted environment, we recommend our MOPP-1 CBRN Protective Suit. This suit can be worn and decontaminated numerous times, isn't as hot to wear for long periods compared to many other HAZMAT suits on the market, and will help you better blend into the background than virtually all other HAZMAT suits that you will find on the civilian market.
If you're moving through a CBRN environment, the odds are that you will have a bag full of supplies with you. What happens then if you get sarin on your bug-out bag? Considering that V agents can stay on surfaces for weeks, you will be in a world of hurt. This is why it's so important to make sure that your gear is protected from CBRN threats as well as your body.
An M4 CBRN Military Poncho excels here. Not only does it provide plenty of extra space so that your bug-out bag can shelter underneath it while it's being worn, but it will also buy you a bit of extra time you can spend in a heavily CBRN-contaminated environment as well.
(Image courtesy of The MIRA Safety M4 CBRN Military Poncho)
This is about much more than not littering in the apocalypse. Put yourself in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1970s. Saddam Hussein regularly used conventional weapons to shatter all of the glass in an area and then drop chemical munitions heavier than air. Everybody that had previously been sheltering in a basement would then succumb to the gasses that would hug the ground and seep through the broken windows of their homes.
Start of the Iran-Iraq War. (Image courtesy of Mhsheikholeslami at Wikimedia Commons.)
Chemical weapons were used repeatedly. It wasn't a one-and-done thing for Saddam.
If you find yourself in an environment where you move back and forth from conventional to CBRN threats over and over again, you're going to want a way to keep your CBRN gear with you and separate from everything else. Trash bags could help with this.
(Image courtesy of MIRA Safety Combat CBRN Overboots)
Combat CBRN Overboots help to ensure that your feet don't end up looking like this X-ray technician's hands after working with "leaky" equipment…
Approximately 75% of the American population needs eyeglasses. If you try to wear your regular glasses underneath your gas mask, you could break the seal around your face and cause dangerous chemicals to seep into the air around your face. Without glasses, you will end up walking into poles and ditches.
(Image courtesy of MIRAVISION CM-6M/CM-7M Spectacle Kit)
If this is you, you must incorporate MIRAVISION Spectacle Kits into your CM-6M or CM-7M gas mask. These will allow you to see what is happening in the world around you without breaking your mask's seal.
Suppose you run your MIRA Safety Geiger-2 Dosimeter over yourself and find that your clothes are contaminated with nuclear fallout after The Bomb drops. In that case, you're going to need to change out of your clothes as quickly as possible, or you will risk radiation burns all over your body.
Keeping extra clothes in this kit will help keep you from having to run around in your birthday suit after a nuclear emergency.
Water isn't just for drinking; it's for rinsing off radioactive fallout from your body as well. You're not going to be able to physically carry all the water you would need for a full-body shower. Still, a bottle or two specifically for rinsing off fallout is most certainly a better option than doing nothing.
Heavy Duty Gloves
For an All-Hazard CBRN go-bag, you will undoubtedly want to ensure that you have heavy-duty gloves at the ready. The MIRA Safety NC-11 Protective Gloves would serve you well in this regard. You'll be able to use a weapon, open doors, and manipulate items in your environment without absorbing potentially lethal substances through the skin of your hands with these types of gloves on.
(Image courtesy of MIRA Safety NC-11 Protective Gloves)
The Final Gasp
Having CBRN equipment is a fantastic preparation for surviving particularly gruesome ways to die. Still, you also have to ensure that this lifesaving equipment is as easy to access as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to know how to create a CBRN go-bag.
Hopefully, our above advice resonated with you and got you thinking about how to prepare yourself for a potential CBRN event. But what do you think? Are there other CBRN-specific pieces of gear that you would add to these kits? Have you built a CBRN go-bag in the past? What did you include?
Let us know what you think in the comment section below.