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In post crash aircraft fires, only a few minutes are often available for egress. To assess the potential of combustion gases to impair human escape, a signaled avoidance task was developed for use with the juvenile baboon. After a 5-minute exposure, the animal was required to select and depress the correct lever to open an escape door and exit in to the adjacent compartment of a shuttle box. With CO, the EC for escape failure was 6850 ppm. Acrolein (12 t o 2780 ppm) neither prevents escape nor affected escape times, despite irritant effects at all concentrations. Similar results were obtained with HC1 (190 t o 17,200 ppm) in that, all animals successfully performed the escape task, even at concentrations that produced severe post-exposure effects and lethality. With a comparable shuttle box and escape paradigm for rats, the EC of CO was 6780 ppm. Five-minute exposures to HC1 (11,800 t o 76,730 ppm) did not prevent escape but severe post-exposure respiratory effects and lethality occurred at 15,000 ppm and higher. In both species, HC1 did not affect escape time but the number of intertrial responses was significantly related to concentration. The results indicate that the rat and the baboon have a comparable tolerance to CO and irritant gases and that laboratory test methods of incapacitation of rodents may be useful in evaluating the potential of combustion gas atmospheres containing CO and irritant gases to prevent human escape.