As you monitor, you need to slow down

By Alexander Oliver

Why do we focus so much on-air monitoring? We all have experienced the 4 a.m. carbon monoxide alarm that roused everyone from that ever-so-elusive good sleep at the station or a warm comfortable bed from home for volunteers. However, when the apparatus arrives on scene, you are the air monitor expert. Your fire department is qualifying that environment’s air as either safe for human occupancy or potentially dangerous. Qualifying the environment is a major responsibility. Your department inherits the liability for whatever outcome may happen in terms of air quality decisions. Think of it like this: What if it was your parent’s or grandparent’s home? You would want the responding fire department to be well versed, knowledgeable, and professional in their air monitoring skills and assessment. This service we provide to the public is one that unfortunately gets glossed over but is a vital function. Here are some easy tips that could help improve your fire department’s air monitoring.

First, let’s look at how the air monitor works. I could tell you about the inner workings of the internal sensors, but let’s keep this straightforward. Each sensor essentially ionizes (or charges with energy) the air as it passes through the sensor. The monitor records a change in the total charge for that sensor, applies mathematical algorithms, and then displays a value on the monitor screen for the user to see. This process is not instantaneous.  It takes time for these series of steps to take place. Based on the manufacturer of your air monitor sensor, this could be anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. Always reference your manufacturer’s guidelines when trying to discover this “processing” time. 

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