Using Technology to Gauge Appropriate Responses by ProQuest


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                                                                                                                     By BOB DURSTENFELD

Using Technology to Gauge Appropriate Responses
Chicago Firefighters Respond to Unseen Threats with Best Practices

               nseen threats are routine for first
               responders. Knowing whether
               there is imminent danger is key
to getting home safely. This column out-
lines several cases in which the Chicago,
IL, Fire Department (CFD) learned the
value of using available technology in
gauging an appropriate response.
       More than 10 years ago, the CFD be-

                                                                                                                                                             Photos courtesy of RAE Systems
gan deploying single-gas carbon mon-
oxide (CO) monitors on all 200 of its en-
gines and trucks. This came about with
the advent of commercially available
CO monitors for home use. The early
home units often went into false alarm,
and this would result in a panicked call
from a homeowner for a response from
the fire department. The need to know
                                                                                   Department puts technology to the test
whether there was an immediate threat The Chicago Fire to a wide range of emergency various ways to determine the appro-
                                                                  priate responses
to life or health could not wait for the
arrival of a hazardous material response engine company arrived for what was Each sensor was chosen for the life-critical
team. Each engine company was initial- thought to be a CO call. Because there or time-critical threat information pro-
ly equipped with an industrial, single-                            was no alarm from the CO monitor, fire- vided if it went into alarm. The CO sen-
gas CO monitor. These were most useful fighters assumed all was safe and entered sor was already proven. The LEL sensor
in the winter, when CO calls were often the building. One firefighter turned on was selected to detect the presence of high
due to incomplete combustion in faulty the building’s lights, initiating an explo- levels of flammable gas. The hydrogen sul-
heating systems.                                                   sion from a natural gas leak. “We began fide sensor was chosen because H2S eas-
       “After a family died from carbon investigating the use of four-gas meters ily saturates a responder’s sense of smell.
monoxide poisoning 12 years ago, … after several 911 calls where the CO The oxygen sensor was selected because it
we first deployed single-gas CO sen- monitor was not sufficient to detect the would immediately indicate the need for
sors on every truck,” said Chief Daniel unseen threat, and we had two gas ex- an air mask and may also show the pres-
O’Connell, coordinator for CFD Special plosions,” added O’Connell.                                                 ence of an oxidizer. Other sensors that
Operations and Hazardous Materials.                                     Over a two-year period, the depart- were considered included chlorine and
       Single-gas CO monitors might still ment evaluated different combinations of ammonia, but both substances have other
be the norm had it not been for some instruments and sensors. The objective characteristics that make them identifi-
catastrophic events. In one instance, an was to determine whether there was an able. Four-gas instruments were evaluated
                                                                   immediate threat to life or health and, if for ruggedness, user interface, calibration
  BOB DURSTENFELD is RAE Systems’ senior director of
  corporate marketing and investor relations. Before joining       the instrument alarmed, whether it would stability, battery life and ease of service.
  RAE Systems, he was senior director and staff technologist       be sufficient to determine the need to se- “We went through an evaluation process
  for the Silicon Valley office of Fleishman-Hillard Public Rela-  cure the 
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