Stopping the Silent Killers

Learn how your integration company can help customers detect hazardous gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO).

There was a time when “WARNING, SBD!” (silent, but deadly) had a mischievous connotation. For security pros today, this innocent childhood expression takes on a more serious meaning. What are the most serious security threats we face at both home and work? Is it a burglary or robbery? The news media would like you to think as much. Yet, the real dangers to people and property are the often less dramatized environmental hazards of fire, smoke, injurious gases, water and temperature.

Did you know that more than 40,000 people per year seek medical attention for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the United States? CO poisoning contributes to the approximately 5,613 smoke inhalation deaths each year in the U.S.

The art and practice of environmental hazards detection is something that all security practitioners should fully under-stand and take very seriously. Offering these valuable services and products to both existing and prospective customers is a must of any successful business model.

Gas Class Is in Session

The security industry can be proud of its record when it comes to smoke detection. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 96%-97% of U.S. households have at least one smoke alarm. The industry and the public have done a good job at promoting and endorsing what is often considered the deadliest of environmental hazards. While smoke, and its cousin CO detection, has received considerable attention, there are other serious and often silent dangers lurking in homes and businesses.

Natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), also known as bottled gas, are common in many American homes. If this gas leaks or its ignition source fails and goes undetected, then the simple act of turning on a light switch can ignite it and cause an explosion. This type of gas leak can also happen in mobile homes and static caravan holiday parks.

RELATED: More of What You Need to Know About CO

Another common location where dangerous gases can be found is in parking garages. Not only can CO be found, but nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and combustible gases (EX) such as gasoline vapors can also be present. Once these gases are detected at dangerous levels, ventilation systems are designed to automatically evacuate the dangerous gases.

Most states and municipalities have building codes; however, it is again important for all to understand detector applications and threat levels. Organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) provide exposure guidelines.

Consideration needs to be given not only to the immediate exposure to often deadly or highly dangerous gas levels, but also exposure to lower levels over a period of time. For CO, this low exposure level could range from as little as 25 to 50 parts per million (ppm) during an eight-hour period. Gas detection systems, such as the 6-Series from Macurco, are designed to detect various target gas levels and trip points for alarm reporting or valve and fan activation. In addition to fan and alarm relays, these controls have a 4-20ma analog output option for trigger points in a specific range of the detectors, being from 0 to 200ppm.

Keeping Customers Dry

Another silent environmental hazard is the threat of property damage from a water leak. Today’s water supplies are everywhere and under constant pressure. Did you know that you are six times more likely to experience water damage than fire damage, and seven times more likely than a burglary? A small leak can often lead to substantial damage. Whether our customers want to admit it, water leak damage is always in the back of their minds. This is another great opportunity for security professionals to come to their rescue.

One system to consider for water leak detection is the LeakGopher from Leak Intelligence LLC. The system uses self-contained water detectors that wirelessly communicate using Z-Wave technology. The system can interface with a standard alarm control. Any indication of a water leak can send a signal commanding the system’s valve controller to turn off the home’s main water line.

RELATED: Z-Wave Seeks to Save House Fire Losses

Most water leak detectors work on spot coverage. Water leak detection systems will then typically deploy multiple detectors that are placed in high-risk areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. In some applications it is more practical to have a detection technology that covers a larger area per sensor.

For these applications dealers may want to check out the Water Moccasin sensor strip from an old name in the business, George Risk Industries (GRI). This device is a 10-foot mesh water strip sensor. This light rope-type sensor can be laid along the bottom of water pipes or in the corners of basements or computer server rooms. It is a 12VDC closed loop with automatic reset. Up to five 10-foot Water Moccasin sections can be coupled together using the GRI WM10-P adapter. This sensor can also interface with wireless transmitters.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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