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Escape Respirator Challenge

Posted December 27, 2018

Currently available escape hoods have several shortcomings for all hazards protection. One shortcoming is an inability of some designs to be packaged compactly such that it can be carried discreetly by a person, individual, or first responder (e.g., a form factor that fits conveniently within a suit coat inner pocket).

Image credit: Justin DiPierro via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5

A second shortcoming for other designs is lack of an oxygen delivery mechanism for respiratory protection when worn in an oxygen-deficient environment (e.g., smoke-filled). Current designs have incorporated solutions to one of the above shortcomings, but none have adequate solutions for both problems.

The “Escape Respirator Challenge” prize competition, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, seeks new concepts for an escape respirator solution that protects the end user against aerosolized chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards and provides delivery of oxygen for use by people, individuals, and first responders. The best concepts will be relevant, usable, effective, and feasible.

The escape respirator solutions should be capable of being donned rapidly and provide delivery of oxygen for safe egress from smoke-filled, oxygen-deficient, and CBR environments. Although commercial solutions exist, they do not have the small form factor desired to be carried in a coat pocket. Also, the weight is great due to the design and packaging of the current commercial solutions.

This is a two-phased competition with a total cash prize pool of $250,000.

  • Phase I: $50,000 each for three finalists
  • Phase II: $100,000 for one winner

Furthermore, if the government determines that the entire project has been successfully completed, there continues to be a need, and there is available funding; you and DHS or any DHS component may attempt to negotiate one or more new agreements for the following purposes as authorized by law:

  1. Follow-on prototype research and development (R&D) contract, Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), or Other Transactions Agreement (OTA) as authorized by law and applicable DHS or DHS component policy.
  2. Follow-on agreement for limited use of one or more completed prototypes in the DHS environment for test purposes for a minimum of up to one year; as authorized by applicable law and DHS or DHS component policy.
  3. Follow-on production purchase agreement in accordance with FAR Part 6.302-1, FAR 6.204, Section 538 of Division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141); or as otherwise authorized by applicable law and DHS or DHS component policy.

Challenge Phases (Overview)

Phase I of the challenge seeks concepts for solutions that help a person, individual, or first responder escape from a toxic environment quickly and safely. Proposed solutions should meet the following design guidelines:

  • Capable of being donned rapidly and provide delivery of oxygen for safe egress from limited visibility, oxygen-deficient, and CBR environments.
  • Compact, lightweight, and (optionally) capable of being carried in a coat pocket.
  • Protect the end user against aerosolized chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards and be protective in oxygen-deficient environments.
  • Provide breathable air for 15 minutes (when activated); and up to 30 minutes in resting state of a person, individual, or first responder.
  • Be quickly deployable after removal from packaging. A user shall be able to unpackage and don it within 30 seconds maximum in low/no light conditions.
  • Have a long shelf life of 5-10 years in sealed packaging stored over a range of environmental (temperature and relative humidity) conditions.
  • Have maximum dimensions of 3.5 inch width, 6.5 inch length, and 1-1.5 inch thickness.
  • Have a maximum packaged weight of 31 ounces.
  • Constructed of heat-resistant, transparent material that affords clear visibility for the user.
  • Have the ability to accommodate a universal neck size (95 or higher percentile) circumference while maintaining a positive pressure seal.
  • Must be transportable on a commercial aircraft.

At the conclusion of Phase I, up to three (3) finalists will each receive $50,000 of the associated total cash prize purse of $250,000. Phase I monetary awards are anticipated to be distributed based on the review of the Phase I submissions by the judges. Phase I finalists will be required to participate in Phase II to be eligible for the Phase I monetary award.

Phase I finalists are required to travel to a to be determined location to participate in a demonstration event, currently scheduled for the week of January 27, 2020. Subject to available funding, invitational travel for finalists to travel to Washington, D.C., to present their prototype/concept may be offered.

If a finalist or winner is found to be ineligible, has not complied with the official ules, terms and conditions of this challenge, or declines the monetary prize for any reason prior to award, (an) alternate finalist(s) or winner may be selected.

Monetary prizes awarded under Phase I will be paid to the individual or team lead directly by DHS’s prize administrator (Common Pool). Phase II monetary awards will be paid to the winning individual or team lead directly by Common Pool. Monetary award prize winners are responsible for any applicable local, state, and federal taxes and reporting that may be required under applicable tax laws.

Phase II: If you are named as a finalist and awarded $50,000, please note the following:

  • You or your team will build a functioning prototype solution according to your submitted application within a six-month period. The prototype should include a prototype in hermetically-sealed packaging and an unpackaged prototype (without packaging).
  • Up to three team members for each finalist should plan to travel to Washington, DC, to meet with the Prize Competition Selection Panel and demonstrate the merits and use of the prototype. This meeting is currently scheduled for the week of January 27, 2020, to compete for the Grand Prize at a location to be determined.
  • Subject to available funding, invitational travel for Finalists to travel to Washington, DC, to present their prototype/concept may be offered.
  • Each team must arrange shipping or hand-carry their prototype to and from the demonstration test. Prototypes should be packaged in such a way that proprietary design details are obscured because competing teams will be able to see your instruments during the testing.
  • Initial check-in and inspection of the prototypes will take place before testing begins.
  • Testing will last for three or five days and will allow for limited time mid-stream to resolve any technical issues as necessary.
  • All three Finalists’ prototypes will be tested at once. This approach ensures all prototypes are exposed to exactly the same challenge.
  • Testing may include how quickly the prototype can be removed from packaging and donned. Some evaluation of visual acuity and how easily oral communication can occur. Testing may also include how quickly and easily the supplied air can be started and how comfortable the prototype is to walk around in.
  • Testing will NOT include exposure to hazards or require human subject testing as we anticipate that these prototypes will require additional development before being ready for this kind of advanced testing. (Additional development will be the subject of a future and separate contract with the competition overall winner.)
  • The Selection Committee will be present during the demonstration.

Based on the outcome of Phase II, DHS has several options for further follow-up/research/development/testing with finalists that may lead to a commercialized solution.

Submission Requirements

Submission Format: Please see complete submission requirements for this challenge at The deadline for registration is 5:00 PM Eastern on Thursday, April 11, 2019. The deadline for submission is 5:00 PM Eastern on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Please submit at least one hour before the deadline to ensure your completed submission is received. When registering your team on Rampit, enter the name and email of the designated team lead.

If you encounter any issues, please email [email protected] with a description of the problem, a screenshot, and the date and time of the occurrence.


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