Evac-U8 Emergency Escape Smoke Hood
Survive and escape from a fire using
this simple device
Three out of four
people who die in a fire do so from smoke inhalation.
Emergency Escape Smoke Hood is quick and easy to apply and
then filters the air you breath, plus protects your face,
hair, and eyes from fire and fumes.
Travelers will find the
Evac-U8 Smoke Hood a useful safety aid not just while they're
flying, but when they're staying in hotels too.
And everyone else who spends
time, living and/or working in high rise buildings or in other places where smoke and
fumes can pose a hazard in the event of a fire should also
consider having one of these devices close at hand 'just in
RECALL NOTICE : In March
06 the manufacturer of these Smoke Hoods announced a recall on
units sold between approx Sept 2000 and March 2006. If you
bought a unit between those dates,
contact the manufacturer to arrange for your unit to be
What You Get
The Evac-U8 Smoke Hood comes
packaged in a simple cardboard box. Inside is the unit itself, a
wall mounting bracket complete with dry-wall screws, a warranty card and a
User's Manual with simple instructions and diagrams in four
The Evac-U8 weighs 10.5
ounces and is in a cylinder measuring 2¾" x 5¾". Until you
open it, at one end is a bright red cap. This and the
bright green body help you find the unit in an emergency.
At the other end is a
photoluminous white disc that reflects back light. This
can help other people find you, especially in poor visibility or
Not seen, but inside the
unit is the hood, made of fire-resistant Kapton. Kapton
can withstand temperatures of up to 752°F - way more than we
The unit sells for $79, or
$72.50 each if buying two or more, through
The manufacturer has a
helpful website, including some demonstration videos.
Using the Evac-U8
I stared and stared at my
bright green canister (with red cap), and wondered what was
inside and how it worked. And therein lies the temptation
and the trick.
It seems prudent to test out
the unit in advance, so as to be better prepared for an
emergency. But once you open the unit, you activate it and
after a short while, even if not used at all, its filtering
ceases to be effective.
Read on for my own
experience testing a couple of units, and then for an
inexpensive solution that will allow you to test a unit too.
A Trial Use of the Evac-U8
The red top of the unit can
be removed by twisting it in either direction. This is
good. There is nothing to remember or get wrong.
Simply grab the unit and twist it a quarter turn. The unit
has no-slip grips making this easy to do.
When you twist the lid, the
tamper-evident seal is broken, and the lid pops off, revealing
the tightly folded up orange colored hood inside. As you
unfold this, you'll notice or feel (in the dark) that there is a red
ribbon along the open side. Unlike plastic bags in
supermarkets, it is easy to separate the two sides of the bag.
I got the next two steps
wrong the first few times I practiced with the unit. You
should first put the mouthpiece in your mouth and nosepiece on
your nose, and only after doing that, then to place the hood
over your head. As I discovered, it is much more difficult
doing it the other way around!
Having taken the mouthpiece
and fitted the nose piece, put the
bag over your head. This was easy to do - the hood
is oversized so it will fit just about any sized head, and it
doesn't matter if you have glasses on, because there's plenty of
space inside the hood for them, too.
The key thing is to quickly and
the mouthpiece in your mouth and start breathing through it -
until you do this, you're breathing contaminated air and
possibly losing mental acuity without even realizing it. The first breath of filtered air is
Which then left only one
step remaining - pulling the drawtapes tight. And I
suddenly couldn't remember - do I pull the tapes up or down?
Again, I was worried if I did the wrong thing, I'd break the
hood. I took the hood off (this was a practice, after all)
and discovered you pull them down from the top, not up.
I wandered around for a
while, surprising people with my unearthly appearance, and discovered two things.
Firstly, you can't talk with the Evac-U8 on - you can make
noises, but because of the mouthpiece filling your mouth, you can't
carry on an intelligible conversation with someone beside you.
If you're getting Smoke
Hoods for your entire family or workgroup, you'll need to have some very
simple way of communicating things like 'follow me' and 'not
The other discovery was the
inside of the hood partially fogged up. I certainly
couldn't read the text in the Evac-U8's user manual from inside
the hood. Which is another reason to practice before a
In a real fire, you'll have
to struggle with the twin challenges of smoke reducing
visibility around you, plus some fogging inside the hood.
Possibly also your eyes might be slightly irritated between the
start of the fire and when you deployed your smoke hood, and
possibly also it might be at night and in the dark.
For these reasons, you need
to practice deploying a smoke hood with your eyes shut, and
realize that after you have the hood on, your escape will
involve poor visibility.
Breathing through the unit
wasn't as natural an experience as simply breathing normally, of
course, and required a bit more effort. You'll want to
remember to breath deeply and deliberately, and try to relax.
('Try to relax' - there's a rather naive suggestion for a time when you're
struggling to escape a fire and near-death experience!)
Don't get the wrong idea -
you'll still be a million times better off than the person next
to you without an Evac-U8!
I tried to think of what
could go wrong with one of these units in a real emergency.
My first concern was the
very thin and lightweight Kapton hood. At DuPont's urging,
I tried to break it, and had to agree it was extraordinarily
strong. However, it has low puncture resistance (ie from
sharp pointed objects) and once a tear has started, it is easy
to extend it.
I tried abusing the pull
cords but couldn't break them.
I was also curious to see
just how fire resistant the Kapton was, so held it for
increasing periods of time over a gas stovetop burner.
Normal plastic bags crumpled and smoked almost instantly, and
paper bags burst into flame. The Kapton hood would last
for several seconds before wrinkling and blackening, in a heat
so intense you would 'fail' long before the Kapton would.
Generally pulling and
dropping and stressing the unit every possible way caused no
problems until a massive tug caused the mouthpiece and hood to
separate from the filter canister. If this happens - and
there's just a friction fit between the two units - there's no
way you're going to be able to refit the two units. But
how likely is it you'll be massively tugging at the two parts
trying to separate them? Hopefully, very unlikely!
So, please appreciate this
was destructive testing to find out where, when, and how the
unit would fail. This is not recreating likely real world
experiences and problems. For normal emergency use (if you
can use these two words together!) the Evac-U8 seems more than
adequate for the probable requirements and stresses you'll place
Necessarily, these units are
single use devices. Once you open and activate the unit,
its chemicals immediately start working, whether there are
noxious gases to absorb and convert or not, and lose their
effectiveness in a few hours, even if not used.
The units cost $79 each
(discounted down to $72.50 if you buy two or more from
Magellan's) and so they are not something you'd want to idly
open just to have a look-see at what is inside. But, on
the other hand, it is fair and responsible to want to be able to
practice deploying the unit in an emergency. Sure, it is
easy to use, but you need the reassurance of having tried it
Fortunately, DuPont have thought of this, and now sell a training unit
that you can open and practice with, for only $29.85.
For the purpose of this
review, however, I tested two 'live' real Evac-U8 units.
It was very helpful to me to
practice, because it turned out I was doing things in the wrong
order. I was first putting the hood over my head, and only
after having done that, attempting to insert the mouthpiece and
clip the nose piece on my nose. This is a good example of
the type of mistake you too could make if you're using the
Evac-U8 for the first time in a real emergency, having done
nothing more than read the manual before.
urge you to get a training unit. Not only will this
relieve the temptation to play with the real unit, but also it
gives you necessary experience in using the hood. The
first time I tried donning an Evac-U8, I found it difficult and
it took a long time to do this - precious minutes (!) that I should
have been using to flee the fire. After several practices, I
could do everything in 10 seconds, which is reasonably fast
is not complicated to use, but in a semi-panicked situation,
perhaps with bad light, you'll definitely be very thankful
for having had the foresight to
get a training unit and practice with it.
What an Evac-U8 Does
In theory, the Evac-U8 is
very simple. It filters the air you breathe in, and
when you breathe out again, the air flows into the hood and out
around the bottom of the hood where you pulled the tapes tight.
This simple process keeps a
positive pressure inside the hood, stopping contaminated air
from getting in and irritating your eyes or entering your
nose/mouth. This positive pressure means that if you
should accidentally make a small puncture or tear in the Kapton
hood, you will still be well protected because the air you're
breathing out will stop outside air from coming in to the hood.
The clever part of the
Evac-U8 is the filtering processes the air goes through before
you get to breathe it. The air goes through four stages of
A hopcalite catalyst converts
deadly carbon monoxide into harmless carbon dioxide
A zeolite dessicant removes
moisture from the air
Activated carbon absorbs
toxic gases from the fire
An electrostatically charged
particle filter precipitates larger smoke particles
By the time your breathing
air has passed through these four stages, you hopefully have air
that is safe to breathe.
The Kapton hood itself provides
a little physical protection from heat and flame, and by
creating an air pillow around your head, you're actually quite
well protected (or, at least, your head is) both from direct
flame and indirect heat. In addition to blocking the heat,
hood definitely won't melt, at least not until temperatures way
above what you'd hope to get close to.
The Evac-U8 has a five year
shelf life before its filtering chemicals have lost their
Competitors to the Evac-U8
There are, of course, other model smoke
hoods available. Some are considerably bulkier
and more expensive, while adding little practical extra benefit
for the typical single use fire escape/emergency scenario. Others are
less expensive and smaller/lighter, but don't work as well as
One of the key factors to
evaluate is a unit's ability to convert carbon monoxide (CO) gas
into carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.
Here's an example of a lower
priced unit - the
Peace of Mind -
which sounds impressive to the casual reader looking at its
description, but apparently this unit does nothing at all to
protect you from carbon monoxide - the most likely killer if
you're in a smoke filled environment, making it of very little
Other units make dubious
claims about filtering carbon monoxide. This gas can not
be filtered, which is why the Evac-U8 converts it to the
relatively harmless CO2.
In choosing a smoke hood,
you're choosing something your life may depend upon. Don't
be penny-wise and pound-foolish in such a life and death
scenario. Get a 'name brand' you can rely on, and there
are few more reliable brand names in the world today than
How Long it Works For
The Evac-U8 claims to give
you a minimum of 15 minutes safe breathing time.
The actual life you'll get
from the unit depends on various factors such as the
concentration of harmful materials in the outside air, the age
of the unit, and the ambient temperature. In some cases,
the unit might buy you more than 15 minutes, but in other cases,
it might not.
However, the point is moot.
No-one wants to hang around a blazing fire. Don't delay - proceed at fastest safe speed to get away from the fire,
before heat, falling burning things, an expiring Evac-U8, and who knows what else
takes their toll of you.
The Evac-U8 and the TSA
So there you are,
taking your Evac-U8 through airport security, and a TSA screener
notices this strange and solid canister, weighing almost ¾lb. What
do you think happens next?
(DuPont) advises they've exchanged data with the TSA and
Canada's similar organization, and have been told there are no
restrictions on bringing smoke hoods on planes. The TSA
even undertook to include reference to the Evac-U8 in their
So, in theory, there
shouldn't be a problem. In the real and imperfect world,
we are told there have been occasional incidents reported
back to DuPont - perhaps one every two or three months; a very low
number when you consider the hundreds of thousands of units they
In most cases, the incident
didn't lead to the unit being banned. Instead, on
occasion, passengers have been questioned about the units, and
sometimes an overly cautious screener has required the unit to
be placed into checked luggage. Once or twice, a screener
has opened up a unit without warning, thereby of course
invalidating it, and - but very rarely - apparently on occasion
a unit may be confiscated by a poorly trained screener.
Magellan's include an extra
explanatory sheet when they send Evac-U8s to their customers,
and advise that in the last four years, they're unaware of a
single customer having a problem with taking an Evac-U8 on board
their flight with them.
I surveyed my readers to see
what their experiences have been. A typical response came
from Bob who said
I've carried a smoke hood
for quite a number of years, and the Evac-U8 for around a year
and a half now. Never had any problems whatever with security
(and I travel every week).
Haven't had to use it (thank God!), so I can't comment on
anything related to actually wearing or using one, but except
for the bit of space it take up in the suitcase, it hasn't
proven to be problematic in any way.
On the other hand, Doug had one confiscated by a TSA screener who claimed these
products are not allowed, and there is no proof they are what they
claim instead of being weapons.
The Magellan's material
helps resolve such problems because it includes a cut-away view
of a unit enabling the TSA to match an X-ray image with the
contents of the unit, and if the security seal is unbroken, they
can be fairly confident the unit is exactly what it claims to
Chances are your experience
will be like Bob and you shouldn't let this interfere with your
decision to keep one in your carry-on bag.
Summary and Recommendation
Your chances of needing to
use an Evac-U8 are hopefully very low. On the other hand,
more than 4000 people die in the US in fires every year, as many
as 3000 of whom died from smoke inhalation rather than the
Chances are you already have
smoke detectors - why not consider an Evac-U8 as well.
An Evac-U8 definitely brings
benefits to people at home, at work, and on their travels.
When buying a device
that could save your life, you want to be sure you're choosing
something you truly can rely on, something that will work as promised. The DuPont name is a
very reassuring guarantee that these units are built to high
quality standards. You can rely on the Evac-U8.
The unit is easy to
use, especially if you also get a training unit to practice
Magellan's and various other suppliers. Recommended.
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21 Oct 2005, last update
15 Oct 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.