The Next Push in Fire Prevention (Sept 2014)
In our homes, we have carbon monoxide detectors to alarm and alert us. In restaurants, commercial kitchens, concert venues, sports stadiums and other facilities there is another, often undetected, silent killer – CO2 or carbon dioxide, which has largely gone without detectors. That may be about to change for the good!
Recently the Illinois Fire Marshal’s Division of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety set out to change the status quo, following moves by states like Missouri, Arizona, California and others which have worked to educate first responders, the public, as well as businesses, and have in some instances incorporated CO2 detectors into Life Safety standards and code. Why the sudden change of heart? Public outcry over deaths across the United States, perhaps? Carbon dioxide is a gas, it is the bubbles in our fizzy drinks, like soda and beer. And lately, it has taken the lives of unsuspecting patrons and workers at establishments across the US.
Carbon dioxide is what we exhale, it is what plants take in, the product of burning fossil fuels, and a mere 5% concentration in the air we breathe can have a deadly effect. It is a naturally occurring gas, exuding from geothermal sources… think coal, volcanoes. One such naturally occurring source was responsible for a tragedy in 1986 when an underwater explosion released a tremendous amount of CO2. Denser than air, the CO2 amassed in the valley near Lake Nyos in Cameroon, taking the lives of 1,746 people living there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos_disaster). Like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide is a silent killer. Though it is not these naturally occurring sources that have made the news of late.
In a highly publicized case in 2011 a woman died unsuspectingly in a McDonald’s bathroom, adjacent to a CO2 tank that had leaked (http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/09/14/georgia.mcdonalds.death/index.html). 9 others were taken to local hospitals, including 3 firemen. A tasteless, odorless gas more dense than air it creates unsafe circumstances for first responders as well. In Missouri the Department of Public Safety and the State Fire Marshal released a report on carbonated beverage system safety and identified that tanks filled on location pose the greatest threat, noting that 250,000 of these systems were in use in the United States (https://dfs.dps.mo.gov/safetytips/carbondioxide.php). While brewers, miners, and carbonated beverage workers deal with the greatest threat, they are typically in facilities which are more diligently monitoring CO2 and may carry portable detectors, outside these professions CO2 detectors have been absent as they’ve been optional.
It may seem odd that CO2 would fall within the realm of Fire Prevention Services since it is actually a non-flammable gas. Consider Fire Prevention services are closely intertwined with Life Safety code, which includes fire detection and alarms, and it begins to make sense why these folks would be a good fit to properly install CO2 detectors.
Are CO2 detectors the next push in fire prevention, we think so. The best course of action here is, of course, to be proactive and install a detector with an alarm system. Oxygen monitors alone are not effective because carbon dioxide levels can become incapacitating even with sufficient oxygen levels. Averus installs the Analox Carbon Dioxide detector, a permanent unit that is wired into existing electrical, following manufacturers requirements to ensure that the monitor is within 24 inches of the floor to be able to identify CO2 where it is most dense (as it is heavier than oxygen it will collect closer to the floor), with an alarm that is at least one room from the CO2 tank (for the safety of first responders, your team, and the public), and directly next to the CO2 tank(s) with venting to outside areas. Contact us today at 800-393-8287 or email us your info at Information@Averus.com and we’ll contact you!
For more information: www.dfs.dps.mo.gov/safetytips/carbon-dioxide.asp