Stillwater Fire District
|Stillwater Fire District - Arvin Hart Fire Company|
Photos compliments of Bob Eastman owner of Ground Aerial photo services 2013
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
I have something that’s driving me nuts, so let me get on my soap box. Carbon Monoxide detectors or alarms have a limited life, they do not last forever. But the purchasing public has been left uninformed. Carbon monoxide detectors sound an alarm when they sense a certain amount of carbon monoxide in the air over time.
Different types of detectors are triggered by one of three types of sensors;
· Biomimetic sensor: A gel mimicking human hemoglobin changes color when it absorbs carbon monoxide and this color change triggers the alarm.
· Metal oxide semiconductor: When the silica chip's circuitry detects carbon monoxide, it lowers the electrical resistance, and this change triggers the alarm.
· Electrochemical sensor: Electrodes immersed in a chemical solution sense changes in electrical currents when they come into contact with carbon monoxide, and this change triggers the alarm.
Once the alarm sounds, the carbon monoxide detector must be placed in a carbon monoxide-free environment to reset itself. That is the reason why you are instructed to take the detector outside in free air to reset the unit or it may go into alarm again. Unfortunately the first problem is that most purchasers do not read the instruction manual thoroughly, which is in very small print. Most instruction manuals will explain the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), they will explain where to best mount detectors, what the alarms mean and vaguely mention that all detectors have a limited life. In researching detectors the longest life sensors available today may last as long as ten years for a premium unit. The AVERAGE life of a carbon monoxide detector is five to seven years. It’s the sensors that have a limited life. Even the gas detectors that the fire department uses that cost thousands of dollars need to have their sensors replaced periodically. That’s why there is a requirement that fire department gas detection units require sensor replacement based on a failure rate determined by frequent, manufacturer’s recommended, calibration.
An excerpt from one of the carbon monoxide manufacturer’s states: “CO alarms have limitations. Like any other electronic device, CO alarms are not fool-proof. CO alarms have a limited operational life. You must test your CO alarm weekly, because it could fail to operate at any time. If your CO alarm fails to test properly, or if its self-diagnostic test reveals a malfunction, immediately have the unit replaced. This alarm will not monitor CO levels while in an error condition.” This would hardly get your attention; “CO alarms have a limited operational life” means they wear out and when they wear out they fail into alarm. When they fail into alarm, the homeowner has no clue what is wrong and calls the fire department thinking they have a CO condition in the house. Naturally this occurs at 2:30 in the morning so now the family gets ushered out of the house and into the family car at 2:30am, the fire department comes thinking they have a CO condition. Although we don’t come lights and sirens if there is no reported illness, fire department protocols dictate that we don full protective clothing and self contained breathing apparatus just in case it’s an actual CO condition and make entry into the structure to take readings with our more sophisticated gas detectors. In nine out of ten responses we find no readings, take down the CO detector, turn it over and discover the detector is more than 7 years old. Oh by the way, the manufacture date is stamped on the back of the detector in small font. After so many calls it’s like crying wolf, although the potential exists and we have encountered actual dangerously high CO concentrations due to defective heating equipment though most calls are false alarms due to outdated sensors. We can never assume that there is no CO; each call has to be treated as the real deal. The problem is after going to so many of these false calls many volunteers no longer bother to respond to the calls anymore, resulting in short staffing. It’s not right that the fire service is providing education for carbon monoxide detectors, one detector at a time. In addition, the State of New York has passed legislation requiring CO detectors in all commercial occupancies, especially restaurants as a result of an unfortunate incident in Suffolk County which caused the death of one restaurant employee and the sickening of 30 others including the responding paramedics. The issue in this instance was a malfunctioning water heater flue pipe in the basement of the establishment. Perhaps localities should commit more resources to code enforcement. The first problem is that all of the carbon monoxide manufacturer’s state that their detectors are for “residential use” so the question will be, what’s approved for “commercial use” especially in restaurants where there is the possibility of the presence of grease laden vapors. We’ll wait for the next chapter to be written, but you can bet the fire departments will be responding to more CO detector calls, potentially many of them false.
Now, what can we do to help solve this problem? There needs to be clear language by the manufacturer’s that carbon monoxide detectors have an expiration date, not a definitive date but they can certainly provide expectation of obsolescence within a range. The expiration date range could be printed on the front of the detector instead of a manufacture date on the back in small font. There needs to be a concerted effort by the manufacturers, the fire service organizations and the media to educate people that CO detectors do not have an infinite life span. Purchaser’s need to be educated and as a result we can cut down on the number of false alarms which has resulted in a profound complacency within the fire service. We have to stop educating the public one CO call at a time.
April Training Focus
The Blitz Attack
The proposal being considered by the State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council does not provide any exemption for rural housing. Access to water is a concern in locations where fire sprinklers systems require the installation of large tanks, water flow valves and other mechanisms to regulate pressure, back flow, etc. Tanks are large and equipment is costly.
Take a look at this video for a minute and then let’s figure out why this knockdown went so well.
The fire occurred a few weeks ago in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small city in south central Wisconsin served by a progressive volunteer department.
The fire started in the early evening, in the garage of a tri-level house when the occupant was welding on a car tailpipe and, well you know the rest.
The response time from dispatch until arrival of the first engine was five minutes. The assistant chief arrived on the scene before the first engine and sized up a tri-level house, going throughout, with fire threatening the B and D exposures. He relayed an action plan of using the deck gun to the officer of the first arriving engine and the successful results can be seen in the video.
But, this fire was fought long before the first unit logged on the scene.
The first-arriving engine has a 2,000-gallon tank; the result of quite a bit of discussion 10 years ago when it was purchased. Some asked, why, in a city served by a good hydrant system, did they need a rig with such a large tank?
First, they do respond into surrounding rural areas where initial water supply was a primary issue so a large tank was a given, but more importantly, the officers wanted more on-board water on city runs so they could mount an effective and safe attack during times when staffing was short.
The deck gun installation was carefully thought out with a lever operated gun, mounted high enough off the deck to permit 360-degree operation and supplied by a 4-inch riser off the pump.
The attack was helped by the fact that the department just completed monthly drills to practice blitz attack tactics, so the operation was fresh in everyone’s minds.
This attack was effective because of the following:
· An experienced chief officer arrived on the scene, performed a quick size up and immediately communicated with the officer of the first engine the conditions and action plan.
· The engine was positioned properly by the driver so that the deck gun could hit both the B and D exposures.
· The deck gun was mounted on the rig so that it had a wide -field of fire- and could be depressed as needed to sweep the forward edge of the involved structure.
· The gun was specified with a lever control rather than hand wheels so that the stream could be quickly moved where needed (They got this idea from Chicago and FDNY)While there could have been a number of nozzle options, on this particular operation the tip was a 1-3/8-inch flowing 500-GPM
Regularly Scheduled Events:
Training -- Wednesday Nights beginning at 6:30 P.M. and Saturdays beginning at 8:00 A.M. with breakfast beginning at 7:30AM
Company Meetings -- 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:30 P.M.
Board of Fire Commissioner's Meeting -- 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 P.M.
Firefighting isn’t for everyone, volunteering is – there is more to do than what is shown here:
Download sign-up sheets and become a member! (Click both links below and fill out)
Attention District Residents: To make sure your county 911 information is correct, call Saratoga County Emergency Services at 884-4769 daily between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M.
Additional Training Resource Links:
New Developments in Fire Service
Get on Board with Fire Service
New Developments in Fire Service Training
Get on Board with Fire Service Updates Training
© 2015 Stillwater Fire District All Rights Reserved.