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Part Two: Different Options for Air Testing

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In our second segment regarding air contamination, we’ll explore the different options available for air testing for SCBA cylinders. They include:

  1. Air Test Sample Kits

  2. On-site Air Sampling

  3. Sample Cylinders

 

Air Test Kits

Air test kits provide the fastest, most efficient solution to air testing. The kits are purchased through a certified laboratory (we use Tri Air Testing) and typically range between $500 and $600. While this option has a higher price tag upfront, the longevity of the kits out-weigh the initial expenditure. With several compressors, the test kits pay for themselves within 1-2 years. TRI also offers loaner kits.

Upon receiving the kit, you'll find find easy-to-follow instructions on how to take the sample. Once the sample has been taken, it’s placed in a pre-labelled envelope to send it to the laboratory.  Result times vary based on the laboratory. Some are as fast as 24-48 hours, while others take over a week (this should be considered when choosing a laboratory.)

 

Pros

  • Easy to perform samples
  • Long-term value
  • Fast results
  • Samples performed by firefighters

Cons

  • Possible false failures due to poor sample taking
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Possibility for incorrect samples if not performed correctly
  •  

On-site Air Sampling

Some fire departments opt to have their air sampled on-site by a representative of a laboratory or compressor manufacturer. This option is often used by departments that want to reduce their responsibilities/liabilities. This option is beneficial to departments that have high turnover and don’t want to retrain new firefighters on air sampling.

Pros

  • Reduces the responsibilities of the firefighters
  • Reduces false failures due to poor air sampling practices
  • Smaller upfront cost
  • Reduces liability placed on the fire department

Cons

  • Times spent on scheduling/coordinating site visits
  • Longer wait time on results
  • Higher long-term cost

Sample Cylinders

A third option is to utilize a sample cylinder in which the sample is collected using the cylinder and the entire unit is mailed to be tested. This method is limiting because it only tests for gas, not oil or moisture. It also has a higher margin of failure as it runs the risk of having remnants of older gas or containments inside. This method has the added expenditure and risk of shipping hazardous material, not to mention the greater environmental impact of shipping an entire container versus an a test kit in an envelope.

Pros

  • Cheaper short-term
  • Easy sampling process

Cons

  • Does not test for oil or moisture
  • Higher margin of failure
  • Expensive/extra effort to ship

 

How to Choose a Laboratory for Testing?

The most important factor is whether or not the laboratory is accredited. The two leading accreditation boards are American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA.) What does an accreditation guarantee?

  • A Trained and Reliable Staff
  • Certified Testing Methods
  • Properly Maintained Equipment
  • A Safe and Secure Testing Environment
  • Compliancy with NFPA Guidelines

 

Why is this important?

  • Minimizes False Pass/Failures
  • Saves Money/Time from False Failures
  • Proper Documentations and Certifications
  • Reliable Staff to Answer Questions

Conclusion

Hopefully by evaluating the pros and cons on different air sample methods, we've given you some tools to better determine which route best serves the needs of your department - whether it's short or long-term saving, convenience or liability. 

AOS provides air sample kits upon request when we service compressors, which also includes a demonstration of how to use this them.  SO if you’re still unsure about which method you want to use, feel free to contact us or ask your compressor service provider.

 

Next Up: how to take an air sample without messing up!

Part One: The Dangers of Air Contamination

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Intro:

As an employee of AOS Services, the child of a diver and a former diver myself, I’ve been around compressed air most of my life. And yet, I’m somewhat bashful to admit that I didn’t fully understand why we tested our air. 

So, with a mixture of my own curiosity and a desire to bring awareness to others about the importance of air testing, I visited TRI’s Air Testing Laboratory here in Austin, Texas to find out more.

 

Part One – The Dangers of Air Contamination

Part Two – The Different Types of Air Testing

Part Three – How to Take a Air Test Sample (and get it right the first time)

 

PART ONE -- THE DANGERS OF AIR CONTAMINATION

As you’re likely aware, air quality testing of compressed air is required every quarter according to NFPA 1989. Failing to do so is an enormous liability and puts fire stations out-of-compliance.

Just this month, a fire department in Spokane Valley, Washington was put under investigation when oil and contaminants had gone undetected in their air cylinders, a process that will likely last months and consume large amounts of time.

However, the most critical factor in regular air testing is the dire notion that clean air could possibly be what stands between a firefighter and a life-threatening situation.

As a firefighter, I have no doubt you’re aware of the implications of contaminated air. However, it’s always helpful refresh yourself on the ramifications posed by contamination.

Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbon is a compound of hydrogen and carbon and is the main component of petroleum and natural gases. It’s present in compressor lubricants and fuels and thus can find it’s way into SCBA's. Hydrocarbons are highly combustible and pose several types major dangers which is why it’s essential to regularly change compressor filters. In addition to it's combustible nature, it's bodily effects include:

- Respiratory System Problems
- Central Nervous System Problems
- Lipid Pneumonia
- Dilated and Ruptured Alveolis
- Emphysema

 Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is the deadliest toxic found in compressed air. It cannot be stopped by filters and due to it’s colorless and odorless nature, it’s impossible to detect without air quality testing. Contamination occurs through three means 1.) Poorly maintained compressors 2.) A poorly placed compressor that intakes unclean air 3.) Someone burning plastic/rubber near a compressor. Its effects include:

- Headaches
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Confusion
- Loss of Equilibrium
- Unconsciousness
- Death

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide is not considered hazardous on its own. However, levels that are compressed within a certain range considered “normal” otherwise, can cause the same issues of carbon monoxide. In addition, it stimulates the respiratory center which increases both the rate and depth of breathing which not only speeds up the effects of the other systems but also increases the intake of other contaminants. 

Moisture, Dew Point, Oil Mist and Particulates

 Moisture levels over the recommended amount result in the automatic failure of an air test. While not dangerous to the human body, the above contaminants result in inoperable equipment which cause safety and financial issues. In cold climates, excess water vapor can cause the regulator or valve to freeze. We also see increases of moisture in tropical/coastal areas during the summer due to increased humidity levels.
 

Conclusion

With the bodily harm, equipment damage and financial burden that result in contaminated air in mind, what should stations do to reduce risk?

1.       ALWAYS GET YOUR COMPRESSOR SERVICED ANNUALLY
2.       GET AIR SAMPLES TESTED QUARTERLY
3.       ALWAYS BE AWARE OF SIDE EFFECTS CAUSED BY AIR                      CONTAMINATION

 

 

If you have any questions or would like to add, please send it my way! Also, Look out for the next article that will discuss the different varieties of air testing available on the market and the pros and cons of each.

 

References:

TRI Air Testing, (2017) A General Overview of Compressed Air Testing for Purposes of Improving Firefighter Safety

University of Washington Environmental Health Laboratory, Breathing Air Quality Sampling and Testing retrieved from http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/GrantsPartnerships/SHIP/awardees/UWAirBreathing/BreathingAirQualitySamplingTesting.pdf

How to Be Successful with Fall Out Funds

We're fast approaching time for 

FALL OUT FUNDS

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Hi there, 

Journey, here, from AOS. I wanted a few minutes of your time to talk about a very special time of year for Air Force Firefighters -- "Fall Out Funds Season." A time for fire departments that's either extremely beneficial or a total bust if not properly planned.

So let me ask you this...

Do you have a clear goal in mind for FY18 -- and are you allocating your funds towards it?

While there may be fires that need to be put out right now (oh firefighter puns,) it's important to stay focused on your long-term goals -- whether that be safety, new apparatus, or better training. If you don't invest in your goals, they'll stay just that... goals. Instead, turn them into reality by being budget smart and following the tips below: 

  • Evaluate Your Goals
  • Review Goals Weekly/Monthly
  • Make Actionable Steps for Achieving Goals
  • Stay Organized - Keep track of spending
  • Know Where Your Money Goes (and block any leaks)
  • Shop Smarter

I can't stress the last point enough -- shop smart. What that doesn't mean is find the cheapest ladder/PPE/Service company on the market. Even with budgets being tight, you get what you pay for. Instead, your department MUST do their research and way the pros and con's of several providers. And once again, refer back to your goals. If saving money in the long-term is more important to you, let that reflect in your decision making.  

With a goal-centeric mindset and proper planning, your fire department can utilize it's fall out funds in a way that will provide long-term lasting results. It just takes time, intention and planning. 

 

Looking to utilize Fall Out Funds towards our services?

Well aren't we lucky! If you wish to allocate funds to AOS's inspection and maintenance services, there's a couple things to keep in mind:

First, let us know! We can't tell you how many times contracts have been sent out with our services in mind only to  get lost in the big crazy world of government bidding because contracting didn't contact us. To avoid that, call or email us so we can be on the look out.

Second, if your logistics officer is having any issues with justification, we can provide them our highly informative guides and templates for justification, fund requests and contracts. 20 years in the biz means we've helped write a few (thousand) contracts so we've found out how best to reduce the headaches from contracting. 

And as always, thank you for everything you do for our country.

VISIT US!

Kind regards,
Journey Jolley, AOS Services Marketing Director

 

Contact

General Inquiries:               Contracting Questions:          Email Inquires:
+1 (361) 727-1645                 +1 (361) 205-9252                        journey@deeperthanthat.com