Gas Detection for Ambulance & Emergency Response Teams

Gas Detection for Ambulance & Emergency Response Teams

First responders should consider having personal gas detectors on hand when responding to 911 phone calls. If hazardous gases, like carbon monoxide (CO) are present in the space, the alarm will go off. These workers can easily attach these portable, small and lightweight gas monitors to their uniforms, bags, or keep a few in the ambulance for easy accessibility.

CO poisoning is more common during the colder months, when folks usually keep their windows closed while running furnaces, heaters, appliances that can emit carbon monoxide, trapping toxic air inside homes or businesses. This dangerous gas, known as the “silent killer”, has no color or odor and can cause uncomfortable symptoms at low levels, and be deadly at higher levels. One of the quickest and easiest ways EMTs, firefighters, and other first responders can rule CO poisoning out when they arrive at a scene is by carrying portable CO gas monitors. If there is a high concentration of CO in the space, the detector issues an audible, visual, and vibrating alarm to get the paramedic’s attention. They can then begin evacuating the building or structure and helping the occupants to safety.

Learn to choose the right gas detection equipment for your response team, so they can deal with various hazards in the field without putting themselves at risk.

What to Look for in Gas Detection for Ambulances

Emergency personnel can encounter a range of hazardous gases on the job, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, combustibles that can cause a flash fire, and oxygen depletion. But the team won’t know which hazards are present until they go inside and sample the air.

Workers going into confined spaces may use a hose to test the air inside the space to identify the hazards before entering, but EMS teams don’t have time to complete this step when responding to an emergency. The medical personnel usually enter the building as soon as they arrive on the scene unless it appears structurally unsound, leaving little time to investigate the nature of the hazards.

That’s why first responders should use gas detection equipment that can detect multiple hazards at once, such as a four-gas or multi-gas detector that monitors CO, hydrogen sulfide, methane, combustibles, and oxygen levels in real time.

EMS teams can use different gas detection devices based on the perceived threat level. Some devices use electrochemical sensors to convert chemical reactions into electrical signals when these gases are in the air. The LCD screen shows the concentration of each gas in parts per million (PPM), its proximity to the lower explosive limit (LEL), or the point at which the gas can explode, and the permissible exposure limit (PEL), the maximum amount of gas workers may be exposed to under federal guidelines. These workers may also use infrared gas detection equipment with photoionization detection (PID) sensors to track hundreds of volatile organic compounds.

Ambulance teams should choose gas detection equipment based on which hazards are likely present in the space. More advanced PID equipment may be needed when responding to emergencies at industrial sites that store or process hazardous materials. A CO detector usually suffices when responding to residential 911 calls where CO poisoning is typically the biggest hazard.

Gas detection for ambulance teams should be portable and lightweight, so EMS personnel can easily wear them responding to various emergencies. They usually come with clips that attach to the person’s collar, lapel, or medical bag without interfering with the task at hand.

The battery on the device should hold a charge for the duration of the person’s shift, which may last up to 12 hours or more.

The alarm on the monitor should be audible, visual, and vibrating to maximize user awareness. EMS crews should have all three in place in case they have trouble seeing, hearing, or feeling the alarm.

How to Use Gas Detection for Emergency Response

All first responders should be trained in how to use this equipment. The device should be worn in the breathing zone, the ten-inch radius around the person’s nose and mouth, so it samples the same air they’re breathing, as the readings vary depending on the monitor’s height.

The settings on the device may need to be adjusted depending on the person’s sensitivity to hazardous gases. Lowering the exposure threshold helps the device detect smaller concentrations of the target gas. For example, if the fire department or EMS crew is responding to a 911 phone call at a nursing home, many of the residents may suffer from chronic health issues that make them more vulnerable to oxygen depletion. The personnel should then lower the settings on their gas detection equipment to find out if there is a leak in the building.

The gas detectors must also be bump tested regularly to check if the device is working properly, and calibrated at least every six months to ensure its gas readings are accurate. This means exposing the sensor to a known concentration of the target gas/es. If the readings match what’s listed on the cylinder, the device is ready to use. If the readings are off, the device should be recalibrated tested again.

Teams should store their gas detectors in a dry, room-temperature location. They should be cleaned and inspected before and after each shift. Labeling each device will help the crew keep track of the equipment so it doesn’t get lost or stolen.

First responders must protect themselves from hazardous gases when responding to emergencies, or they won’t be able to provide care. The detection process should be automated and portable, so workers can go wherever the job takes them.

Find portable gas monitors for emergency response teams at PK Safety.


Sep 12th 2023 PK Safety Team

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