ILC escape masks given to lawmakers during Capitol riots

SCape CBRN 30 escape masks, developed by ILC Dover in Frederica, were provided to lawmakers during the breach of the U.S. Capitol building last week. (Submitted photo/ILC Dover)

FREDERICA — Members of Congress were implored by police to crawl under their chairs after waves of Trump supporters clashed with police and mobbed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Shortly after protesters breached the Capitol, disputing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the lawmakers were asked to grab their gas masks as the violent crowd fought its way past police.

That’s when ILC Dover, a company based in Frederica that has become famous for manufacturing spacesuits for NASA, became a part of the extraordinary — and harrowing — event.

The gas masks that each member of Congress was provided during the attempted takeover of the Capitol building was a SCape CBRN 30 escape mask, which was designed and made at ILC’s campus in Frederica. The lawmakers were provided with them as a precaution.

“We take great pride in providing high-quality protective products both for health care and for unexpected events (such as the protest at the Capitol),” said Doug Durney, director of marketing and new business development for ILC Dover. “We’ve made thousands and delivered thousands of health care (protection gear) for front line health care workers these days to support the COVID (fight) — and while this (Capitol breach) was a sad event, we were happy to be there to provide the protection.”

The easy-to-use respirator developed by ILC is the only one of its kind that meets the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health standards for an escape respirator that can be used for a 30-minute duration during a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event.

Members of both the House and the Senate were told to grab the escape masks as they were evacuated from their respective chambers.

House members and staff, followed by journalists, were reportedly escorted down the stairs on the west side of the chamber to the basement of the Capitol, past a group of people in police custody lying on the ground. Members of Congress on the third floor were reportedly taken to a room in the Longworth House Office Building.

“(Last Wednesday) was an event I never thought I’d see — combat troops having to take back the United States Capitol,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. “This is a tragic moment in our nation’s history.

“That our Capitol was overwhelmed by rioters and that Officer (Brian D.) Sicknick ultimately died because of injuries he suffered in the line of duty, is unacceptable. We must seek accountability for those who participated in and incited this attack, investigate how this happened and take steps to ensure it never happens again. This must be a priority.”

A second Capitol police officer, Howard Liebengood, also died, it was announced Sunday.

Mr. Durney said that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been an ever-increasing demand for civilian escape masks that are capable of protecting untrained users from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear inhalants.

He added that hazardous conditions may be caused by spills of toxic gases or liquids from trucks, rail cars or industrial plants or could be the result of terrorist attacks or protests. Since the introduction of the original SCape NBC in 2004, numerous government agencies have chosen to make ILC Dover escape respirators a key component of their emergency response plan.

Mr. Durney said lawmakers were provided with the SCape CBRN 30 escape mask, which are identical to ILC’s SCape CO/CBRN, except that they don’t handle carbon monoxide.

“We sell two of those (escape masks), and they handle all of the same broad range of chemicals, as well as biologicals, and the only difference is the SCape CO/CBRN handles carbon monoxide,” he said. “I don’t know exactly when these were purchased (by the government). They were purchased from a distributor. The (government) started their escape program following 9/11.”

Unlike other escape masks, the SCape CBRN 30 can be used by people with glasses and/or facial hair, has no securing straps, nose cup or mouth bit and utilizes a positive-flow ventilation system that automatically activates when removed from the package.

Its clear hood with large visor is designed to allow the user to perform a wide range of tasks, such as using a cellphone or other communication device, and to be more easily recognized while reducing the feelings of claustrophobia. Other features include a comfortable neck seal and blower indicator light.

“ILC Dover has a long history of protecting people from extremely dangerous toxins and elements in some of the most demanding environments — including space and the battlefield,” Mr. Durney said. “This unsurpassed expertise is leveraged when creating and manufacturing all of our personal protective products, including the SCape CO/CBRN 30, which offers the highest level of protection available and is the most user-friendly escape mask available today.”

ILC Dover has been serving the aerospace, personal protection and pharmaceutical industries since 1947.

Mr. Durney said ILC’s innovative products have been used on the moon, on Mars and around the globe, including now in the Capitol building.