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NOAA won’t replace your ‘escape hood’ when it expires

An Alexandria Police employee tries on an escape hood. (Photo: Larry Morris/ The Washington Post)

Some folks at the Commerce Department were upset last month when they received a notice telling them that their “escape hoods,” a kind of gas mask to help you to breathe while escaping a fire or gas attack, are being phased out.

The notice, sent to about 170 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency who work at the department’s downtown headquarters, said that the “decision to purchase and deploy escape hoods was made shortly after 9/11 by department leadership for various reasons.” We understand one of those  reasons was the building’s location just a couple blocks from the White House.

“The program was discontinued after it was determined that any benefit they might offer did not justify the significant cost of purchasing and replacing them,” the notice said. The hoods —  which cost about $160 apiece, contain carbon filters that wear out and have to be replaced after about five years.

“Therefore, expired hoods should be disposed of properly,” the notice said, “and those not expired may remain in place until expired.”

There is no department-wide policy on the hoods, and we hear most agencies within the department have already phased out the program.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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