The Chicago Fire Department recently replaced the multigas monitors on all 160 of its engine and truck companies with QRAE II models from RAE Systems. More than 3,500 firefighters were trained on the device in the week of initial deployment.
In fact, many people don’t realize they’ve been exposed until they become ill. O’Connell cited an incident earlier this month in which firefighters responded to a call in a 5-story L-shaped condominium building. A carpet-cleaning crew left their vehicle idling in the building’s parking garage. A Level 2 hazmat response became necessary, and firefighters evacuated the building —forcibly entering 30 units. Hazmat monitors displayed CO readings as high as 600 ppm, and the building had to be force-ventilated before residents could return.
The QRAE II is a one- to four-sensor gas detector that provides continuous exposure monitoring of oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and combustible gases. It is small enough to be used as a personal monitor and is enclosed in ruggedized housing. The new unit features two-button operation — compared to three on the previous model — one-button calibration, a 15-second startup time, and 30-second fresh-air calibration.
“The less they have to think about, the better,” O’Connell said.
The large display inverts so firefighters can view the monitor without removing it from their belts. The display also features an automatic backlight.
“While they’re wearing their protective gear, [firefighters] can still functionally use this, as far as hitting the buttons, seeing the display, using it in a day-in/day-out application,” said Jim Elliott, the North Central regional manager for RAE Systems, who conducted the training at the CFD.
An automatic calibration station enables bump-testing (see video below), streamlines data download, and recharges the unit’s Lithium-ion battery.
All alarms are time- and date-stamped and datalogged, discouraging firefighters from testing the units out by placing them in close proximity to a vehicle tail pipe. And all alarms must be acknowledged for the unit to be reset.