AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Face masks are flying off the shelves as fears over the coronavirus deepen.
But now, the panic has some customers turning to a different kind of protection.
Mira Safety specializes in personal protection equipment, selling everything from full-face respirators to hazmat suits.
The Austin-based company says it is struggling to keep up with consumer demand as they fulfill orders from around the country.
Products once considered novelties may soon become more mainstream.
Owner Roman Zrazhevskiy says his January sales outpaced what the company made in all of 2019.
While the business operates out of a nondescript storage facility, it only sells products online.
“People are calling us day and night, at this point, more people are calling than we can possibly handle,” Zrazhevskiy said.
Zrazhevskiy says the “flagship” product is his CM-6M mask, a full-feature respirator that includes a hydration system, canteen and speech diaphragm. Wearers of the mask can reportedly withstand mustard gas for nearly 30 hours, according to Mira’s website.
The owner said customers have also been ordering hazmat suits for kids at a rapid rate.
Alanna Autler: “People are actually buying this to prepare for coronavirus? Does that shock you at all?”
Roman Zrazhevskiy: “It doesn’t surprise me, there’s a viral threat and people are looking for ways to mitigate risk.”
Mitigating risk is Zrazhevskiy’s passion.
For him, it’s also personal.
“I was born in 1986, a few months before the Chernobyl incident happened,” Zrazhevskiy said. “It was always discussed in family circles, how we could have mitigated the risk, how we could have helped more people. I was always fascinated by the equipment associated with emergencies like that.”
Zrazhevskiy started Mira Safety two years ago.
Previously, the company mainly catered to military forces, law enforcement agencies, emergency response teams, even survivalists and “preppers.”
But he said after coronavirus, everything changed.
“Who is buying this stuff? Is it doomsday preppers or is it mom and dad down the street?” Autler asked.
“Everyone,” Zrazhevskiy claimed.
For Mira’s full-face respirators, which cost about $220, customers face a lead time of four to six weeks.
While N95 respirator masks claim to filter 95% of airborne particles, Zrazhevskiy said his CM-6M tactical gas mask filters 99.99995 percent of airborne particles.
But he admits the product does not work properly if users do not know how to disinfect the mask or change filters.
That’s why he is urging consumers to research any professional-grade equipment they may buy.
“This is an advanced product, way more than what’s needed for coronavirus, but unfortunately there is a run on these types of products,” Zrazhevskiy said.
Autler: “What do you say to people who see this operation and think the public is overreacting?”
Zrazhevskiy: “I say better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it…You have your life insurance, you have your health insurance, you have your car insurance, what we provide is right now insurance.”
But Zrazhevskiy said if a pandemic breaks out, the best way people can protect themselves is by stocking up on food and water.
The cost of face masks are surging as fears deepen over coronavirus.
On Amazon, various sellers marked up basic masks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of a potential pandemic.
Yet the CDC does not recommend face masks for the general public, warning that the items may not effectively prevent the spread of the disease.
Instead, people are encouraged to wash their hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and avoid touching their faces.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
“Seriously people–STOP BUYING MASKS,” wrote U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams in a tweet. “They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”