Bhatt’s proposal for a simple and easy-to-use respirator allows for up to 15 minutes additional breathing time and represents a streamlined alternative to existing full-face masks, which form a seal around the lower half of the face.
His design is intended to be more efficient and universal as it directs airflow through the mouth only, making it suitable for anyone to use.
Nose clips covering the nostrils cause the user to inhale through a mouthpiece that ensures a tight seal to prevent smoke inhalation.
Bhatt began exploring potential solutions to help people evacuate smoke-filled buildings safely, following the fire at the north-London tower block in 2017 that resulted in the deaths of 72 people.
During the research phase, the final-year student on the University of Hertfordshire’s Bachelor of Science programme met with firefighters to identify issues that affect how people evacuate a building.
He discovered that differences in the number of fire exits can lead to longer evacuation times. This led him to propose using a combination of charcoal and several gauzes to capture toxins and give users as much breathable air as possible.
The mask is made from durable and affordable ABS plastic in order to facilitate low-cost mass manufacture so every occupant in a building can be provided with a respirator.
Bhatt’s design also includes a technological feature intended to help the fire brigade account for the whereabouts of a building’s occupants and ensure they have evacuated safely.
When users pass through a fire exit, a built-in radio frequency tracker sends a message to a reader operated by the fire brigade so they know that person is safe. The technology would also allow the authorities to log how many people may still be inside.
The mask’s elastic head straps feature high-visibility details so that users can see each other in the smoky corridors and follow each other out of the building.
Bhatt’s design was awarded the top accolade at New Designers, which sees students from more than 170 creative courses exhibit their work at the Business Design Centre in London over the course of two weeks in June and July.
The judges described the proposal as “a very simple and easy to implement solution to a very current issue,” adding that it was “good to see a very positive and worthwhile response at a timely moment to a pertinent cause.”