Ever worry you could be minding your own business supporting your team at the Super Bowl or shopping at your local mall when a terrorist decides to unleash some creepy "28 Days Later" or "I Am Legend"-style bio-attack on you?
While it’s known that the U.S. Secret Service protects the president from assassins and terrorists, the agency is also investigating better ways to protect U.S. citizens from those sinister attacks, as well.
The "Escape Hood," a product of American ingenuity and innovation to defend against bio-menaces, will be found in the pocket of every Secret Service agent. Agents also will carry the hoods for the VIPs they are protecting — such as the president or presidential candidates.
Last week, I attended the Homeland Security Science and Technology Conference in Los Angeles where the prototype was revealed. Check with me later for other cool new counter-terrorism stuff Homeland Security is inventing like the "Web-shooter," straight out of a Spider-Man comic book.
In L.A., I also caught up with Anthony Chapa, deputy assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service who was unveiling this cutting-edge technology. He gave us the inside scoop about the mission of the Secret Service, the real deal on protecting the president and the story behind the "Escape Hood."
I even got a chance to try on the hood and demonstrate it for myself. I realized why female Secret Service agents sensibly tie their hair back after bringing my hair to fashion victim status.
The hood was very easy to put on and took me far less than the required 10 seconds. There were no problems seeing through it and it has a flat dual filter with a collapsible nose cup that you hook your nose under. It is approximately the size of an envelope, weighs less than 14 ounces and lays flat.
The hoods may not be as fashion-friendly as one would expect from the organization that made shades, tailored suits and ear pieces famous, but they are the future in terms of security. The hoods will allow agents to rapidly don protection and provide agents with at least fifteen crucial minutes to safely leave potentially contaminated areas.
Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the hoods were developed to provide resistance against many types of agents and will effectively filter nerve, blood and blister agents as well as remove toxic industrial chemicals.
The high protection neck seal gives the wearer a protection factor greater than 1,000. The Hood has a shelf life of more than three years and it does not require any maintenance.
As the wash-and-go version of biological warfare protection, it represents a significant advance in the cumbersome time-consuming devices previously available.
Football games and shopping malls are attractive targets to terrorists and the "Escape Hood" is something we could all easily carry around with us in our pockets or handbags to protect ourselves against the threat of terrorists using these invisible weapons against us. In fact, the hoods may eventually become available for civilian consumers.
While I wouldn’t expect to see the "Escape Hood" sailing down the runway during New York’s Fashion Week, the risk of a biological or chemical attack on civilians could yet make it a must-have in the future.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.