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On the market: Gas monitors

Here's a look at the different options available for equipment designed to warn you of the presence of deadly gases


We all know that the emergency scene is fraught with dangers, both seen and unseen. For years we've stressed the need for firefighters to wear their turnout gear and breathe cylinder air from their SCBA, and by and large we've gotten much better at that level of protection. But there's more, and that's where portable gas monitors come into the picture.

Portable gas monitors used to be solely part of the Hazmat team's equipment cache, but that's changed as monitors have gotten smaller and the need for personal gas monitoring has grown larger. Let's take a look at what gas monitoring options look like today.

The SC-01 single-gas monitor from RKI Instruments is a versatile single-gas monitor. Its "smart" sensors are interchangeable, with the SC-01 automatically recognizing any sensor change without the need for set up or configuration changes.

The SC-01 weighs 7.6 ounces and is available with sensors for ammonia (NH3), arsine (ASH3), carbon monoxide (CO), chlorine (Cl2), hydrogen cyanide (HCN), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), phosphine (PH3), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The SC-01 is capable of remote monitoring by using the optional 10-foot extender cable.

Its key features include:

  • Smart interchangeable sensors.
  • Compact size at 2.5 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches.
  • 250 hours of continuous operation on two AA alkaline batteries.
  • Audible, visual, and vibration alarms.
  • Intrinsically safe and CSA and C/US classified.

RKI Instruments also has the GasWatch 2, the first single-gas monitor that can be worn on the wrist like a watch. It provides a low-cost, hands-free method of gas monitoring of oxygen deficiency, carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide. The built in vibrator, audible and visual alarms immediately alert the user of a dangerous gas condition. 

Its key features include:

  • Audible and visual alarms for dangerous gas conditions and malfunctions.
  • Large digital readout with a manual backlight that also automatically lights in an alarm condition.
  • Visual display of PEAK, TWA, and STEL readings.
  • Inexpensive, field-replaceable sensors with a life expectancy of about two years.
  • Can operate for more than 3,000 hours on one battery — about one year normal use.

The 01 Series of personal single-gas monitors from RKI Instruments provide departments with another option. The GP-01, OX-01, CO-01, HS-01 and HS-01S models are personal single-gas monitors designed for personal protection from combustible hydrocarbons, oxygen deficiency, hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide.

Its key features include:

  • Each model can be operated continuously for at least 3,000 hours on two AAA alkaline batteries except the GP-01, which operates for 16 hours.
  • All have two preset alarms that are user adjustable.
  • Each is equipped with visual, audible and vibration alarms.
  • Inexpensive, field-replaceable sensors with a life expectancy of about two years; they are interchangeable with other RKI monitors such as the GX-2001, GX-2003, and GasWatch 2 models.

Airspace has the AI-1100 Series of gas monitors, which includes the 1100 Carbon Monoxide Monitor. This single-gas monitor has visual and audio alarms at CO levels of 30 ppm, 60 ppm and 120 ppm.

This unit provides gas monitoring for situations where only an alarm is needed. For example, EMS teams can attach the monitor to their first-in EMS equipment kits so that they have CO gas monitoring on every response.

Personal units
The RAE Systems' line of personal gas monitors includes single and diffusion four-gas detectors and can be worn attached to a collar or a shirt pocket. The ToxiRAE Pro is the world's first wireless personal monitor for toxic gases and oxygen. 

It provides safety professionals with wireless access to real‐time instrument readings and alarm status (including person down alarm) from any location.

Based on its popular single-gas detector — but with added functionality — MSA's Altair Pro toxic gas and oxygen detectors have LED, audible, flashing and vibrating alarms with clear, backlit LCD displays. Electrochemical sensors measure concentrations of toxic gas (ammonia, carbon monoxide, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen dioxide, phosphine and sulfur dioxide) or the concentration of oxygen in the air.

The GasAlertClip Extreme from Honeywell is a zero-maintenance gas detector that is in use around the world. This single-gas detector requires no calibration, sensor replacement, battery replacement or battery charging.

Honeywell touts its simplicity of operation, minimal training requirements, and negligible maintenance costs. The GasAlertClip Extreme, which is capable of monitoring for hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and oxygen concentrations, is available in two-year or three-year models.

Multi-gas detectors
RKI Instruments claims that its GX-2009 multi-gas detector is the smallest four-gas confined-space monitor available. The GX-2009 measures 2.75 inches tall x 2.95 inches long x 0.98 inches deep — it literally can fit in the palm of your hand — and weighs 11 ounces. 

It simultaneously monitors and displays combustibles, oxygen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide. The GX-2009 comes with dual audible alarm ports and alarm LEDs on three sides of the instrument, so that alarm conditions are obvious to the user from multiple perspectives, especially in high-noise environments

RAE Systems says its MultiRAE Pro is the industry's first wireless multi-threat detection tool because it combines continuous monitoring capabilities for gamma radiation, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic, combustible gases and oxygen, with man-down alarm functionality in one portable instrument.

The MultiRAE Pro's wireless capability provide safety officers real-time access to instrument readings and alarm status from any location for better visibility and faster incident response.

The GasAlertMicroClip XT from Honeywell provides multi-gas detection for hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen concentration and combustible range (percentage of lower and upper explosive limit). It is fully compatible with the BW Technologies by Honeywell MicroDock II automatic test and calibration system.

The GasAlertMicro 5 IR, also from Honeywell, simultaneously monitors up to five atmospheric hazards including: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, oxygen concentration, and combustible gas (percentage of lower and upper explosive limit). It is also capable of monitoring a wide selection of toxic gases.

Its key features include:

  • Continuous LCD display shows simultaneous gas concentrations for up to five gases.
  • Power provided by either three AA alkaline batteries or a rechargeable battery pack.
  • Fully compatible with the BW Technologies by Honeywell MicroDock II automatic test and calibration system.

The Protégé personal multi-gas monitor is the latest addition to the Scott Safety brand. The Protégé is designed to monitor potentially hazardous levels of combustible gases (percentage of lower and upper explosive limit), oxygen enrichment or depletion, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.

Its key features include:

  • Simple, intuitive user interface including one button off/on, easy calibration and functional self-testing.
  • Enhanced user ergonomics with hourglass design to fit all hand sizes.
  • Automated maintenance features including automatic zero and span calibrations and simple sensor replacement.

The GX-2003 manufactured by RKI Instruments is the smallest personal 4-in-1 multi-gas monitor with a built-in sample pump on the market. Weighing in at only 11 ounces, it has many features not found in other monitors including:

  • Monitoring for the standard confined-space gases, that is, combustible gas (percentage of lower and upper explosive limit), oxygen concentration, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.
  • Measures 100 percent volume for methane and dynamically displays either percentage of lower and upper explosive limit, or percent volume with its auto-ranging ability.

The Phocheck Tiger from IonScience is a photo ionization detector used for measuring for the presence of volatile organic compounds. There are three models in the range and all are upgradable from the basic variant.

The Tiger is pre-programmed with 450 different gases including petroleum, diesel, benzene, trichloroethylene, styrene and acetone. It complies with IP65 and is intrinsically safe with ATEX certification.

Its key features include:

  • Dynamic range ppb to 20,000 ppm for specific volatiles.
  • Fast 2-second response.
  • Five year instrument warranty.
  • 30-hours of battery life.
  • Gas table of more than 250 compounds and their individual response factors.

Gas monitors reporting to command
Yes, you read that right. The RAELink3 Mesh portable wireless mode with GPS enables any RAE Systems personal gas and radiation detectors, and select third-party monitors, to communicate wirelessly with the company's ProRAE Guardian safety monitoring software so that commanders and emergency response coordinators can make better decisions in real time.

Fast assessments of the toxic hazards within a large area can be characterized by integrating real-time sensor readings from multiple instruments and technologies. As a result, commanders can make critical decisions such as emergency responder and public safety or evacuation more quickly.

I'll leave you with a hazmat quote that I heard many years ago during a hazardous materials operating site practices class at the National Fire Academy. Our guest lecturer that day, Frank Docimo, said, "When making tactical decisions on a hazmat call, you have to trust the science." 

Today's gas-monitoring equipment is making it easier for us to use "the science."

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