User Stories

The ChemPro100i Chemical detector has been used widely by First Responders and Hazmat teams to quickly detect and localize chemical leaks and sources of unknown substances. Hundreds of ChemPros are on a daily use in US and Canada. Please see real life use cases below:

 

Using the ChemPro100i as a “SNIFFER”

Case 1 • “Chlorine” smell in a house
Problem

  • Fire department responded to a house with complaints of a chlorine smell.

Response

  • “Received call for odor of chlorine in the residence. Homeowner and his wife had been home for about an hour and a half when she noticed a haze in the kitchen and smelled chlorine.  He had been napping and woke up feeling groggy and she complained of burning in her nose and mouth.  On arrival we sent in a two man recon team with ph paper, a Draeger Pac 7000 chlorine meter and (2) MSA SafeSite meters with chlorine sensors in them.  After doing a recon of the dwelling and getting no readings we deployed a second recon team with the ChemPro.  In trend mode it began to get readings that spiked in the kitchen and then came down elsewhere in the house.  …we did a quick check without SCBA and found a burnt electrical odor.  Upon closer inspection we found it to be the refrigerator-freezer.”

Conclusion

  • The initial search with chlorine sensors took about 1.5 hours. Using their ChemPro100i they found the smell in 5 minutes.
  • They determined that the refrigerator motor had burned out and this acrid smell had been confused with the smell of chlorine by the homeowner.
  • Acrylonitrile can be generated when plastic electrical components overheat and burn, the smell of these chemicals could be confused with chlorine.
  • None of the first in sensors could see these chemicals.
  • The ChemPro100i did not classify or identify these chemicals but it did detect the discharge from the overheated/burned-out compressor motor on the Trend screen.
Case 2 • “Gas” Leak
Problem

  • Units were alerted for an inside gas leak in a single family dwelling.

Response

  • The first arriving unit entered the home with a standard four gas meter and checked all levels.  They found no odor of natural gas and there were no changes in atmospheric readings on any of the sensors in their four gas meter.
  • After investigating the dwelling, the crew members exited and two of them began complaining of dizziness and headaches.
  • At that time a hazardous materials response was requested alerting our special operations team.
  • Based on the symptoms the members were describing, and a report from the homeowner that a loud pop and hissing sound were heard coming from the basement utility room, we suspected a possible Freon leak.
  • The only tool in our arsenal useful for detecting any of the Freon blends is the ChemPro100i.  Two of our members entered the basement using the ChemPro100i and a PID.

Conclusion

  • The ChemPro100i, in trend mode, led our guys right to the a/c unit in the basement utility room where they found a leak coming from the copper supply line going into the coil.
  • TWe continued to check the atmospheric conditions in the basement while using forced air ventilation to clear the Freon.  The ChemPro100i allowed us to gauge the effectiveness of our ventilation efforts, and finally to determine when the atmosphere was safe for the residents to return home.
Case 3 • Sick Building
Problem

  • We responded at approximately 0830 for a report of occupants of an office building experiencing symptoms consistent with a corrosive atmosphere.
  • The occupants were experiencing respiratory distress as a result of exposure to an unknown chemical.
  • While responding our dispatcher notified us that two occupants were being transported to local hospitals for evaluation via personal vehicle.

Response

  • The building was an office/warehouse for our state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
  • There were no chemicals on scene except cleaning and household chemicals not unlike any other office building.
  • As workers were sitting at their desks they started to experience respiratory discomfort including burning of the eyes, nose, throat, and mouth.
  • The problem was concentrated in one specific area of the building approximately 60‘ x 200' in size.
  • A uniformed police officer of the DEP was already on scene as a worker had been dismissed the previous day.
  • The worker was dismissed for erratic behavior that included drug and alcohol issues and extremely poor performance.
  • He indicated as he was escorted from the building that they would be sorry.
  • Based on this information we assumed this threat was followed through on and took every precaution to identify the product.

Actions Taken

  • We were carrying the ChemPro100i on our apparatus that day as a trial to see if there was an application in everyday operations (versus leaving it on the Haz-mat truck).
  • The initial action was a recon of the building in full firefighting PPE with SCBA.
  • As part of the Recon the initial entry crew took a four gas, pH paper (wet and dry), PID with a 10.6 lamp, and a radiation detector with a scintillator probe.
  • Throughout the entire building the readings for all these devices were normal.
  • The occupancies on either side of the target building was metered as well with the same result.
  • We decided to try the ChemPro100i as a last resort using the trend display.
  • We were able to get an unknown chemical detected alarm in the area where the occupants experienced symptoms.
  • Directly above the desk area was a discharge for the HVAC system and when the probe of the ChemPro was placed near the discharge grate the trend display increased and went into an alarm.
  • The assumption was made that the HVAC system was to blame and we activated the system to reproduce the results.
  • The readings initially increased and then actually went down after activating the system.
  • After a thorough review of the system it was determined that the system drew fresh air from the outside via a fresh air intake.
  • An investigation of the surrounding properties revealed that a large cloud had passed by the building at approximately 0815.
  • The adjacent occupancy had fired up a kiln at 0800 and had cremated several animal carcasses

Conclusions

  • It was determined that the byproducts of the cremation of animals had been drawn into the fresh air intake of the HVAC system and distributed into the office area in question.
  • As the cloud was gone there was no way to capture readings directly from the kiln.  Tedlar samples were taken and ran on a GasID as well as an FID with no results.
  • If not for the ChemPro100i we may have mistaken this event for a psychosomatic sick building call and would have never found the source of the problem. We simply would have ventilated and had the occupants go about their day with no definitive answer.
  • Our findings were able to help the emergency department of the receiving hospital treat the patients that were transported.
  • While we were not able to definitively ID the product we were able to rule out several other products and locate the source of the problem using the ChemPro100i

 

Using the ChemPro100i as a Classification/Confirmation detector

Case 1 • Plant Ammonia Leak
Problem

  • An ice plant had a large leak in its ammonia refrigeration system.

Response

  • Regional and state HazMat assets responded primarily using PIDs to find the leaks and access exposures levels for PPE decisions.
  • After sealing off the leak the PIDs continued to read high levels of “something” but given that the leak was sealed up responders thought that perhaps there was another chemical leaking that they were not aware of.
  • They used the ChemPro100i to find areas of higher concentration while in the “TIC-Confirm” library it confirmed that the high concentrations were “Ammonia” and that they were coming from ammonia diffusion out of the large amounts of ice that were stored on site.

Conclusion

  • The high concentrations of ammonia had infiltrated the large store of ice.
  • After the leak was sealed, the ammonia diffused out of the ice and the ChemPro100i was able to identify the ammonia.
  • Using electrochemical sensors to confirm the presence of ammonia could be risky because high levels of ammonia will quickly kill them. Also these sensors are expensive to purchase every two years and calibration gas is expensive and short-lived.

Libraries/Alarms

  • TIC Confirm: “Ammonia” alarm
Case 2 • Compressed Gas Delivery Truck
Problem

  • Driver hears gas cylinders/bottles fall over as he his driving..
  • He pulls over when he thinks he hears gas leaking.

Response

  • Driver tells the arriving HazMat team that he thinks the leaking cylinders could be Chlorine, Ethylene Oxide or Hydrogen.
  • CO sensor will detect both EtO (~40% response), H2 (~40% response), and even Cl2 (~10% response).
  • The ChemPro100i will see all the potential leaking chemicals on trend and can confirm Cl2 using the “TIC Confirm” library.

Conclusion

  • PID can’t sniff for any of the suspected gases.
  • Using ChemPro100i or the cross-sensitivity of a carbon monoxide sensor is the best way to find the leak.
  • ChemPro100i may be able to identify the leak.

Libraries Used/Alarms

  • First Responder: “Chemical Detected/Toxic”.
  • TIC Classifier: “TIC oxidizer”.
  • TIC Confirm: “Chlorine”.

Note: Different libraries includes different chemicals and that’s why they give different indication. Chemical alarm indication is given when chemicals outside the library are detected.

Case 3 • Leaking Refrigeration System
Problem

  • An old apartment building was being renovated.
  • As an old, unused refrigerator was being removed from an apartment, a line was cut.
  • This line leaked something into the area that sickened people.
  • Freon is non-reactive and typically wouldn’t sicken people.
  • The area smelled of sulfur.

Response

  • The initial gas detectors were in H2S alarm at upper levels of the building where the refrigerator was found (more than 10 ppm).
  • No sewer openings were around to produce the gas.
  • Upon searching the building HazMat found an SO2 tank in the basement of the building.
  • This tank was plumbed to a building wide refrigeration system.

Conclusion

  • SO2 is an early refrigerant that is also found in old “monitor style” refrigerators.
  • H2S sensors are cross-sensitive to SO2 at a 5-1 ratio. So 10 ppm on an H2S sensor means 50 SO2, the TWA of SO2 is 2 ppm and IDLH is 100 ppm.
  • PIDs cannot “see” SO2 so cannot be used to sniff for the source.
  • ChemPro100i can sniff for the SO2 using the Trend screen and it can confirm the presence of SO2 using the TIC-Confirm library.

Libraries Used/Alarms

  • TIC Classifier: “TIC”.
  • TIC Confirm: “Sulphur dioxide”.

Note: Different libraries includes different chemicals and that’s why they give different indication. Chemical alarm indication is given when chemicals outside the library are detected.

 

“Off-label” uses of the CWA library in a ChemPro100i

CWAs are rarely, if ever encountered in routine HazMat response, but the CWA library still have usefulness in routine HazMat calls.

Case 1 • Stinky buggy house
Problem

  • HazMat team responded to a house where the occupants reported that they were getting sick.

Response

  • Sniffing with the ChemPro100i they found higher concentrations of chemical around the perimeter of the floor of the house.
  • Switching to the CWA library a consistent “Nerve” alarm was found when sniffing these areas of higher concentration.
  • Upon discussions with the homeowner it was found that the house had had an insect infestation and had been sprayed to address this problem.

Conclusion

  • HazMat helped to ventilate the structure and returned the house to the occupants when the “Trend” screen levels on the ChemPro100i indicated that the interior levels were similar to outdoor background levels.

Libraries Used/Alarms

  • TIC Auto Classifier: “Chemical Detected/Toxic”.
  • CWA Sensitive: “Nerve.

Note: When sniffing pesticides directly from the a bottle organophosphate (OP) pesticide the ChemPro100i may give a “chemical detected” alarm because even concentrated pesticides are often over 90% solvents which may initially mask the pesticide signal. However, after the solvents evaporate the pesticides will be left behind to provide a strong “Nerve” signal.

Case 2 • Attempted Chemical Suicide
Problem

  • 0930 FD/EMS units make initial response to residence for an unconscious female patient.
  • Responders were in and out of the house for about 25 minutes with no responder issues.
  • While the female was at the ER, she regained consciousness and advised ER staff that she attempted suicide & most likely her two sons will not make it.
  • No indications of the method/manner in which she attempted to take her life.
  • She was intubated & placed in ICU before any more information could be obtained.

Response

  • 1400 FD/EMS units return to residence after family/friends discover the two sons unconscious in their bedroom (bodies appear to be staged/placed in a position conducive to ‘peaceful’ sleep).
  • Based on information obtained from the ER and calling party, FD units call for hazmat and law enforcement.
  • Hazmat units enter residence with PPE and SCBA and rapidly retrieve victims and turn them over to EMS.
  • Hazmat units then began atmospheric monitoring of the interior of the residence, all meters read within normal ranges, biological indicators (pets in the residence, and other civilians who were in the residence prior to FD arrival) indicated no atmospheric deficits.
  • Samples taken and analyzed by GAS ID (FTIR), with no results.
  • ChemPro100i and APD2000 both alerted immediately upon entering the residence for the presence of “Nerve” agents.
  • Samples were again taken for GAS ID analysis, in the immediate area of the alerts, no match with the ID.
  • Monitoring continued with the ChemPro100i, and the levels eventually diminish to a level of no detection in any library.
  • Based on biological indicators, no further detection on the Trend screen and lack of any further alerts the scene was released to law enforcement.

Conclusion 

  • ER staff advised hazmat units the following day, that the victims had ingested a product; no inhalation hazards.
  • The ingested substance is believed to be an organophosphate insecticide.

Libraries Used/Alarms

  • Auto: “Chemical Detected/TIC Acidic”.
  • CWA Sensitive: “Nerve”.

Note: When sniffing pesticides directly from the a bottle organophosphate (OP) pesticide the ChemPro100i may give a “chemical detected” alarm because even concentrated pesticides are often over 90% solvents which may initially mask the pesticide signal. However, after the solvents evaporate the pesticides will be left behind to provide a strong “Nerve” signal.

Case 3 • Security sweep before a high profile sporting event
Problem

  • Prominent sports venue requires a security sweep before a major sporting event.

Response

  • ChemPro100 was used to sweep the stadium for chemical contamination the day before the event.
  • The ChemPro100 consistently gave a “Nerve” alarm when scanning near the concrete risers of the stadium.

Conclusion

  • Upon investigation it was found that the stadium was sprayed with pesticides to kill insects the day before it was scanned.
  • Pesticides often are just dilute versions of CWAs and will often respond the same on the ChemPro100i.
  • As the event was planned for the next day the alert wasn’t considered dangerous.
  • It is recommended to scan at least a little the next day before fans arrive to see if pesticide levels have decreased as expected.
  • If the “Nerve” alarm persists the “Basic Levels” can be reset using the “CalcBL” key to “zero-out” this background (note: CalcBL should only be used by advanced users).

Libraries Used/Alarms

  • First Responder: “Chemical Detected/Toxic”.
  • TIC Classifier: “Chemical Detected”.
  • TIC Confirm: “Chemical Detected”.
  • CWA Sensitive: “Nerve”.

Note: When sniffing pesticides directly from the a bottle organophosphate (OP) pesticide the ChemPro100i may give a “chemical detected” alarm because even concentrated pesticides are often over 90% solvents which may initially mask the pesticide signal. However, after the solvents evaporate the pesticides will be left behind to provide a strong “Nerve” signal.