Offgrid Gear Review: Fast-Act Chemical Decontamination Ready Kit
Prolonged Field Care focuses on what first responders can do after...
In the current political environment, self reliance and disaster preparation have become a priority for many people. You don’t have to look very far to understand why. While most would say they have the basics of preparation covered: food, water, shelter, self defense, and so forth, the mere thought of having safety measures in place for a chemical exposure is daunting. Not only because of the vast possibilities of solid, liquid, or gaseous hazards, but also the potential cost of such preparations.
Fast-Act provides a kit that seems to have you covered, at least in general hazmat terms. At a list price of $190, their chemical decontamination kit isn’t beyond the budget for most people and covers a lot of ground in a small package. At first glance, it seems to have the critical pieces for initial decon from exposure to a chemical. Fast-Act claims to not only contain but to chemically break down and neutralize a wide variety of chemical compounds.
Given the compact size of the kit, there are limitations to the amount of product for which it can be used, but in all fairness, you don’t buy a kit like this to provide large-scale decontamination. The Chemical Decon Ready Kit contains enough components for you to execute gross decon and neutralize a small amount of product. The kit can be purchased pre-built, or the products within it can be purchased à la carte, but the decon-ready kit itself includes key pieces that you’ll want to provide a basic amount of chemical protection.
Masks: Three air purifying respirator masks are included in the kit and intended to provide a barrier against hazardous particulates as well as minimize noxious odors. Although the masks aren’t to be used as a replacement for legitimate gas masks, they boast “patented neutralization technology,” which, according to the website, has been evaluated against dangerous chemical warfare agents, including mustard gas (not that we’d recommend cleaning up a mustard gas spill with this — leave that to the pros). We found the masks to be lightweight and comfortable. They provide a good seal around the mouth and have a malleable nose clip for a custom contour over the bridge of your nose.
Decon Mitt: Inside a sealed, green foil pouch is a paper mitt that’s absorbent on one side, allowing you to quickly wipe product from yourself or some small equipment. A hook-and-loop strap around the base of the mitt permits you to secure it to your hand so it doesn’t slip off in your haste to remove the chemical or when the mitt catches on something. It’s a simple but effective design. No need for anything fancy here. You stick your hand in, cinch it tight around your wrist, and quickly wipe away the hazard. A single mitt doesn’t offer a whole lot of absorbency, so the four mitts that come with the kit provide more reasonable coverage for anything more than a minor exposure.
Microfiber Towel Set: The kit also comes with a set of two microfiber towels. It’s a conveniently packaged set to conduct gross decon, followed immediately by a more thorough decon. As with the rest of the kit, the towels aren’t really intended for anything other than a small area — personal use or small equipment. The two towels are different in purpose and easily distinguishable: one green and one black. The green towel is intended to be used first as an absorbent, followed by the black towel, which is coated in the proprietary Fast-Act sorbent powder that allows it to be used for surface decon and neutralization of a large variety of chemical residue. The convenience of the resealable pouch is especially handy when the towels have been used. Simply place them back in the pouch and reseal.
Powder: Two 50-gram bottles of Fast-Act sorbent powder are packaged together in a similar resealable packet as the towels. The powder is a proprietary blend of metal oxides that creates a large, porous surface area, which, based on a lot of testing found online, does a really good job doing exactly what the company claims: breakdown and neutralize. The powder is easily accessible and simple to use. Because the bottles are in a sealed pouch, once you rip it open, there are no pesky, frustrating seals or safety packaging to battle. Simply flip open the lid, aim, and squeeze.
To test the kit, we used the microfiber towels to see if they’d clean up and decontaminate an area with spilled chlorine bleach and then tested the sorbent powder to verify if it would neutralize home pesticide. First, though, we donned the mask to check for odor detection. It blocked the odor of the spilled bleach. To double-check the effectiveness, in a separate location, we opened a full gas can and were unable to detect any odors. The mask doesn’t carry a NIOSH certification, so it should only be used as protection against offensive odors or “nuisance particulates,” such as dust. I wore it throughout the remainder of the tests, and the seal remained intact.
We then poured chlorine bleach onto a flat concrete floor. The spill spread out to cover about 1 square foot. The resealable towel packet opened with ease and the black towel was nested in a tight roll beneath the green towel. As advertised, the green microfiber towel absorbed much of the small spill. Upon using the black towel, exercise caution when you deploy it or you and everything around you will be covered in powder. The black towel coated the spill area in powder and left no odor of chlorine. Both towels fit conveniently back into the pouch for disposal.
To test the sorbent powder bottles, we created a small spill of home pesticide (bifenthrin). In an effort to simulate a real incident, we hurriedly opened the foil bag and retrieved one of the powder squeeze bottles. We popped the top, pointed it at the spill, and squeezed until the puddle was covered. The spill was approximately 8 by 8 inches; it took about one-third of one bottle to cover, so the powder will blanket more area than you might think. Checking the pH prior to applying, it was acidic (yellow). Once the powder was applied, the pH showed to be neutral (orange). It performed, at least on pesticide, as promised.
Fast-Act claims this decon kit will work on a vast array of chemicals, but because of the required EPA certification, they cannot make any claims against “biological” hazards. Biological hazards include things like E. coli, salmonella, and clostridium botulinum — the nasty stuff that causes botulism. They do, though, tout that their products work on a broad spectrum of nasty chemical-pairing agents such as hydrogen deuteride, VX (nerve agent), as well as toxic industrial chemicals and materials, and have been certified by several independent laboratories.
The Fast-Act products are certified nontoxic and have been tested for safety by multiple outside agencies including the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine. The sorbent powder isn’t harmful when it comes in contact with skin. However, just as any other time you’re dealing with a hazardous material, all available safety precautions should be taken. Depending on the chemical, skin and eye protection could be extremely important, so take whatever measures are necessary with the specific chemical you’re dealing with.
If it’s a spill of unknown origin, even with this kit, you should avoid touching it. Hazardous materials can be quietly lethal. While this chemical decon-ready kit provides a good deal of protection, it also may boost your confidence in a way that could be dangerous if you don’t apply a little common sense as well. If you follow the instructions and use appropriate precautions, this kit provides even a nonprofessional the ability to contain small amounts of a wide spectrum of chemicals. Don’t forget that after the use of this kit, disposal of any kind of hazardous materials should be done in accordance with your local city ordinances for hazmat disposal.
Entire emergency agencies are dedicated to hazardous materials mitigation, so creating a compact and effective kit for personal use is a bold endeavour. The Fast-Act Chemical Decon Ready Kit has done it, but with some limitations. A few simple additions could add to the overall safe use of the product, such as a pair of neoprene (or other chemical-resistant) gloves and a pair of safety glasses. A shelf life of about five years is somewhat limiting by many prepper’s standards, but isn’t out of the ordinary for decontamination agents.
The greatest benefit would be when there’s a chemical spill on a hard, solid surface. If a hazardous chemical comes in contact with your skin or clothing, it could potentially cause problems before you can get to your decon kit, and even then, the benefit would be limited. But given the scope of chemical threat readiness, Fast-Act has delivered a solid product. In the event of chemical exposure, they narrowed down to the bare essentials what might be needed while keeping the price tag reasonable given the potential for the exorbitant costs that could be incurred preparing for a hazmat incident. It’s an impressive kit that seems to be as inclusive as possible, while remaining condensed and portable.
FAST-ACT Chemical Decontamination Ready Kit
(*This information obtained from their website)